Common Misunderstandings Concerning Biblical Inerrancy

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Biblical inerrancy entails the Scriptures are truthful in all they affirm or teach.1 Lamentably, many people fundamentally misunderstand the concept, failing to recognize the importance of employing proper exegetic and hermeneutic methodologies, while overlooking the Bible’s silence on numerous topics of interest. First, to accurately discern the objective message of Scripture, one must actively seek to understand the text from the perspective of the author, rather than relying upon mere subjective interpretations of a particular passage.2 Consequently, when reading “and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands,” in Isaiah 55:12, it is vital to understand the author is exemplifying the abundant joy resulting from God’s redemption and restoration of His creation, not teaching botany.3 Understandably, the Bible cannot be expected to render our misinterpretations of the text valid, nor does our misunderstanding of Scripture render biblical inerrancy false.

Second, it is essential to recognize the Bible’s lack of precision in particular matters of contemporary interest. Elucidating this principle, John Frame explains, “Inerrancy, therefore, means that the Bible is true, not that it is maximally precise. To the extent that precision is necessary for truth, the Bible is sufficiently precise. But it does not always have the amount of precision that some readers demand of it.”4 For example, Genesis 1 gives few details concerning the creation of the universe, while Genesis 24 provides a plethora of details surrounding the selection of Isaac’s wife. Although many contemporary readers are more interested in the former than the latter, God’s creation of the universe remains true, regardless of how many details appear in the narrative. Accordingly, students must abandon their a priori theological assumption that “God shares our modern interest in accuracy and scientific precision,” and examine their presuppositions regarding the behavior of Scripture, before discounting the doctrine of inerrancy.5

 

 

Footnotes

  1. For a general explanation of the doctrine, see “Bible Inerrancy: Understanding the Doctrine.
  2. For an example of employing proper exegetical methodologies, see “Legalism or Cheap Grace? An Exegetical Examination of Romans 7:7-25,” “The Importance of Community: An Exegetical Examination of Ephesians 4:7-16,” and “The Rebellious Prophet: An Exegetical Commentary on Jonah.
  3. All Scriptural references are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
  4. John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2010), 173.
  5. Peter Enns, “Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What the Bible Does,” in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, ed. J. Merrick, Stephen M. Garrett, and Stanley N. Gundry (Michigan: Zondervan, 2013), 84.

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