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

Don Stewart :: Aren’t Many Statements of Scripture Outside the Realm of Being Inerrant?

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Aren’t Many Statements of Scripture Outside the Realm of Being Inerrant?

Answering Bible Difficulties – Question 30

One curious argument against biblical inerrancy makes the observation that not all statements in Scripture can be proven true or false. For example, commands such as, “Pray without ceasing,” or, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” cannot be said to be either true or false because they are not assertions of fact.

In addition, there are those portions of Scripture where the writer worships the Lord with adoring praise. These statements cannot be said to be either true or false. Therefore, many statements in Scripture are outside of the realm of being errant, or inerrant. Since this is the case, how can one say that all the words of the Bible are inerrant?

It Is Recognized That Not Every Statement Found in Scripture Can Be Falsified

This objection does not understand the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy merely holds that those statements in Scripture that can be proven to be true or false are always true. It does not hold that every statement in the Bible can be falsified. No one argues that every statement made in Scripture can be proven true or false.

Inerrancy asserts that all the words of Scripture are accurately reported. In addition, the statements made by God, or by one of His prophets when they are speaking for God, are without errors.

In Scripture, we find a number of statements that assert facts or truth. However, not all of these statements can be independently verified.

We can categorize these statements as follows:

There Are Many Statements That Can Be Historically Verified

The Bible contains a number of statements which can be independently verified as true or false. For example, we read the following in Luke’s gospel:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. (Luke 3:1-2 NKJV)

Luke mentions seven historical figures that lived and ruled together at a set time in history—the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. This statement can be examined to determine whether or not it matches up with historical characters that were known to live. It does.

There Are Explanations of the Meaning of the Historical Facts

There are other statements of fact that are found in Scripture that cannot be verified by any type of historical investigation. For example, the Bible says that Jesus Christ was crucified in the city of Jerusalem. It also says that He was buried, rose from the dead, and appeared alive after His death.

It is possible that historical investigation can determine whether or not this really occurred. However, historical investigation cannot determine the significance or meaning of the death of Christ. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NKJV)

The Message translates the verses in this manner:

The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 MsgB)

Historical investigation cannot tell us the meaning of His death. Therefore, the statement of Paul “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is totally trustworthy, but it is outside the realm of any sort of historical investigation.

Scripture Contains Personal Testimonies to God’s Goodness

There are a number of statements in Scripture that could be placed under the category of personal testimonies. These statements testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God. For example, we read the following in the Book of Psalms:

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. (Psalm 119:1-3 NRSV)

Here is a general statement that those who obey God’s law are happy or blessed. Again, while these statements are trustworthy, they cannot be independently verified as either true or false in the same way a statement of historical fact can be verified.

Therefore, we must appreciate that the Bible contains a number of statements that cannot, in the historical sense, be proven to be true or false. Hence the term, “inerrancy” would not apply to them.

The Bible Is Totally Trustworthy in All That It Says: This Is the Doctrine of Inerrancy

This is why it is important to go beyond the term, “inerrancy” when describing the nature of statements found in the Bible. Inerrancy, while true, is a limited concept—more needs to be said about the nature of the Bible than it is merely without error. What must be emphasized is that the Bible is totally trustworthy in all that it says. This covers all statements that are found in Scripture. This includes verifiable facts or spiritual principles that are laid down—everything is true.

Summary – Question 30
Aren’t Many Statements of Scripture Outside the Realm of Being Inerrant?

The idea of inerrancy is irrelevant for much of Scripture because many statements do not fall into the category of being proven true or false. However, those who hold to the doctrine of inerrancy recognize this. Inerrancy states that those parts of Scripture that fall under the category of being proven true or false will always be found to be correct. It does not mean that every statement of Scripture can be proven true or false.

Statements that explain why a certain event happened cannot be proven to be true or false by normal historical investigation. Neither can statements that personally testify to God’s goodness for those who trust Him. Yet these statements are true.

This is why the term, “inerrancy” is limited in its scope. The emphasis on the nature of the Bible should be that it is totally trustworthy in all that it says. This includes those types of statements where the historical method cannot determine whether they are true or false.

Aren’t There Too Many Qualifications to the Definition of Inerrancy? ← Prior Section
Since All Bible Translations Are Imperfect, How Can We Speak of an Inerrant Bible? Next Section →
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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.