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Don Stewart :: What Are Some Important Clarifications to the Doctrine of Inerrancy?

Don Stewart

There are a number of important clarifications that need to be made to the doctrine of inerrancy for a proper understanding of it. They include the following.

1. Inerrancy Allows For Non-Technical Descriptions

The doctrine of inerrancy allows for the Bible to be written in non-technical descriptions. We must allow for a biblical writer to explain a natural event from the point of view of an observer. An example of this is dew falling.

When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it (Numbers 11:9).

Although not scientifically precise this is exactly what it looks like from the vantage point of an observer. We do not need to assume the writer is making a scientific statement about the nature of the univ erse when such a statement is made. Inerrancy allows for these types of statements - it does not demand scientific precision.

2. Inerrancy Allows For Pictorial Language

Holding to an inerrant Bible allows for pictorial language and figures of speech. Interpreting the Bible literally does not rule out figurative language when the context calls for it. The Bible uses literary devices such as metaphor, simile, and hyperbole to make a point. Truth can be communicated through figures of speech. Inerrancy does not mean that passages need to be interpreted in a "wooden literal" manner - it does recognize figures of speech when the context calls for it.

3. Inerrancy Does Not Demand Scientific Precision

Inerrancy means that a statement can be true without scientific precision. General statements can be inerrant without being precise if the writer and the readers understood that exact precision was not intended. This is best illustrated in the practice of Scripture of rounding off of the numbers.

4. Inerrancy Allows For Recording Different Details Of The Same Events

The doctrine of inerrancy also allows for different writers to describe the same events with different details. This is particularly the case in the four gospels. Each gospel writer would have viewed events from his own unique perspective. This would account for the reason that some of the details appear different. The Gospels record many of the same events with explanations that do not match word for word. These accounts are complementary, not contradictory - they merely emphasize different points. Each author records what is important to himself as an historian. No one gives all the details of any account. Therefore the details can vary.

In addition, it must be remembered that Jesus often spoke in Aramaic while the writers of Scripture wrote their accounts in Greek. This means they had to translate those portions into Greek. One gospel writer would use slightly different words from another to describe the same incident. However all of the accounts gave the same meaning.

5. Inerrancy Allows For Variety Of Writing Styles

Inerrancy allows each biblical author to use his own unique style, grammar, and vocabulary. For example, Luke is written in very good Greek while John's gospel is composed in rather elementary Greek. Paul writes with a lot of emotion while Matthew gets straight to the point. Inerrancy allows for these differing styles.

6. Inerrancy Allows Quotations From The Old Testament That Are Not Word For Word

Inerrancy allows for quotations from the Old Testament to be paraphrases rather than word for word translations. Actually there is no other way this could have been done. The New Testament writers had to translate the Old Testament when citing references since the New Testament was written in Greek while the Old Testament was written in Hebrew with small portions in Aramaic. Translation, therefore, was necessary.

7. Inerrancy Allows Departure From Standard Forms Of Grammar

The writers of Scripture have to be allowed to express the truth in whatever grammatical form they wish - not some standard or rule that someone else may insist upon. The doctrine of inerrancy allows for departure from standard forms of grammar.

8. Inerrancy Allows For Problem Passages To Exist

Inerrancy allows for problem passages that presently have no solution. This is to be expected with a work that was written by so many different authors and spans so much time as the Bible. It is not reasonable to assume that all the problems will be easily solvable. The solutions to problems presently found in the text await either the archaeologist's spade or further research into the biblical languages. There are some other cases where the solution may never be found. While waiting for a solution to a Bible difficulty it is proper to take the biblical stance toward Scripture - there are no errors or contradictions in its pages.

Summary

There are a number of important clarifications for a proper doctrine of inerrancy. First inerrancy allows for non-technical descriptions of things. Inerrancy also allows the writers of Scripture to use pictorial language. The doctrine of inerrancy does not always call for scientific precision. The writers of Scripture also may use different words to describe the same event. Inerrancy allows for a number of different writing styles in Scripture. Inerrancy also permits the writers of the New Testament to cite the Old Testament without quoting it word for word. The writers of Scripture are also permitted to express God's truth in whatever grammatical form they wish. Finally, inerrancy allows for problem passages to exist.

Consequently any doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture must be held with qualifications. What appeared on the pages of Scripture is that which God intended to appear.

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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