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The Bible is inerrant (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (The Bible is inerrant (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CH101:

The Bible, being God's revealed word, is without error or fault in everything it teaches, including what it says about creation, historical events, and its own origin. Scientific study of the earth cannot be used to overturn scriptural accounts of creation and the flood.

Source: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1978. The Chicago statement on Biblical inerrancy.

CreationWiki response:

It is important to note that claims of Biblical inerrancy relate to the original manuscripts, not to copies and translations. Therefore they do not preclude the possibility of transmission errors, such as copying errors, translation errors, printing errors, and deliberate attempts at manipulation.

It further needs to be noted that this is a theological statement, not a scientific one, and is accepted by many who are not creationists. The fact that Talk Origins has chosen to attack this issue with such fury shows that their contempt is for the Bible and Christianity in general, rather than just creationism.

There are strong arguments for the historicity of the Biblical manuscripts—in fact above that of other ancient documents, the accuracy of some translations, and so on.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Inerrancy cannot be trusted. Errors can only be corrected if they are first recognized and admitted. Inerrancy makes that impossible.

  1. By definition inerrancy means that there are no errors, so Talk.Origins' statement is illogical. If the Bible is inerrant then there are no errors to find and fix. Furthermore, the Bible books have been tested/examined thoroughly for thousands of years. One would think that some solid refutation would show up by now. Talk Origins is implying that Christians have not been studying the text carefully.
  2. Most Biblical scholars who hold to its inerrancy recognize that inerrancy is only in the original text. They acknowledge that individual manuscripts or groups of manuscripts can and do contain errors, most of which are minor. These minor errors can be recognized and fixed by virtue of the large number of ancient copies available. (About 24,000)

Therefore, errors in an inerrant interpretation of the Bible can never be fixed.

It is the original text that is inerrant, not interpretation of the text. Talk.Origins seems to be confusing the two. With possibly a few exceptions, Christians are well aware of the possibility of misinterpreting the Bible and try to avoid doing so.

2. Inerrancy is a contempt that breeds hate. Inerrantists take it as divinely certain that other people's religious views are inferior to their own.

Wrong, a belief in Biblical inerrancy is not a contempt. They are totally separate. Biblical inerrancy is a belief, while contempt is a feeling; there is a big difference. It is possible to firmly believe that something is right without having contempt for those who disagree. Furthermore, belief in Biblical inerrancy will tend to lead a person to accept Jesus as their Saviour; this breeds love, not hate.

Talk.Origins' claim is using an appeal to consequences of a belief. They are claiming that a belief in Biblical inerrancy is wrong because, allegedly, it produces negative results. While their claim is not based in reality, even if it were true it would prove nothing about the truth or otherwise of Biblical inerrancy.

One reaps what one sows, so when inerrantists show their contempt, contempt for their own religious views is returned. History is bloodied by the consequences. Jews, Muslims, other heathens, and other Christians have been subjugated, tortured, and slaughtered in the name of the "true" god.

Talk Origins provides no examples of either Christians or non-Christians being "subjugated, tortured, and slaughtered", as is common when this particular argument is brought up, though the infamous Spanish Inquisition is implied or cited. The Spanish Inquisition has been greatly taken out of context and exaggerated in a similar way to the related "Black Legend".

Further information regarding the Inquisition:

Even if the claims of Talk Origins were true, it, in no way, 'disproves' Biblical inerrancy.

It should also be noted that the bloody history of the Muslims started before they encountered Christians.

Jacob Bronowski, speaking of Auschwitz, wrote,

  • Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was done by arrogance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Talk.Origins' use of this reference shows their contempt for Christianity and also contains several fallacies: Ad hominem Comparing anyone (other than Nazis) to Nazis is a personal attack. Appeal to emotion Appeal to fear

Furthermore, there is no comparison. Christians do not believe that they have absolute knowledge. Even though the Bible is inerrant, our knowledge of it is still not absolute or absolutely correct. It is actually humbling.

It is ironic to invoke the horrors of the Holocaust in this way, because it associates with this travesty a substantial number of Holocaust victims who believed wholeheartedly in the literal six-day Creation recorded in Genesis, along with the rest of the Hebrew Bible, just as many do today.

Invoking the Nazi card in this way against the more literal interpretations of the Bible, of both Testaments, has met with resounding condemnation by some Holocaust survivor family members themselves, both Jewish and Christian. Some very publicly.

The contempt also shows up as intolerance — against women's roles, sex attitudes, and a variety of other different views. Even those who don't commit atrocities, when they display such intolerance, are guilty of fomenting the atmosphere that makes the atrocities possible.

Given the use of the above reference to (Nazi) Auschwitz, Talk.Origins is hardly in a position to call anyone intolerant. Talk.Origins is confusing disagreement with intolerance. It is not intolerance that opposes views that one disagrees with—it is a normal part of the political process. For example, voting for candidate A in an election does not mean that the voter is intolerant of the views of candidate B, just that the voter agrees more with candidate A. In some cases the proponents of some of these views show contempt and hate for Christians. Are Christians supposed to roll over and let those who hate them take over the country without a fight or even an argument?

Furthermore, intolerance is not always wrong. Sometimes an idea is so dangerous that it cannot be tolerated. Should we tolerate communism, which seeks to take away our freedom? Should we tolerate radical Islam, which seeks to kill us? Should we have tolerated Nazism which killed millions in the 1930s and 1940s? Should we have tolerated slavery?

3. Inerrancy rejects much study of the Bible (not infrequently to the point of persecuting the studier).

On the contrary, a belief in inerrancy would encourage study of the Bible, as it is all that much more worthy of study (why study something full of mistakes?).

What Talk.Origins is probably referring to is rejection of conclusions that some studies have made, and of the motives for making some of those studies. The charge of "persecuting the studier" has no basis in fact. In many cases, studies that are rejected are the work of men who were seeking to discredit the Bible, and the results are readily refutable.

One who accepts inerrancy generally

  • ignores textual criticism. Most inerrantists accept the King James Version as authoritative, but analysis of the earliest biblical manuscripts show that the KJV includes numerous errors. For example, the story of Jesus chiding those who would stone an adulteress (John 8:1-11) does not appear until about 300 years after the Gospel of John was written.
  • From The King James Bible Page: [1]
"... It also is in early translations such as the Bohairic Coptic Version, the Syriac Palestinian Version and the Ethiopic Version, all of which date from the second to the sixth centuries... The vast majority of all known Greek manuscripts contain this section... Additionally, the internal evidence demonstrates that this passage is original. If we remove it we have a very erratic jump in textual thought..."
  • This has no relevance to the inerrancy of the original manuscripts.
  • The KJV was translated from the Greek text known as the Textus Receptus, and the proponents of textual criticism assume that any disagreement between the Textus Receptus and their preferred manuscripts means an error in the Textus Receptus. However, the Textus Receptus was compiled from a far larger number of manuscripts than are used by the proponents of textual criticism, so it more likely that any disagreement is an error in the other manuscripts.
  • In some cases there is other evidence that alleged error was the result of tampering with the manuscripts used by the proponents of textual criticism; such is the case with John 8:1-11.
  1. The Greek manuscripts that lack this passage are known to be filled with errors. In some of them it was included, but as a footnote. This shows that the passage was most likely deleted from texts to which Talk.Origins is referring rather than being added after A.D. 300 [The Defender's Study Bible King James Version]
  2. It is easier to delete material from a text than it is to add it, so the passage was most likely deleted from texts to which Talk.Origins is referring rather than being added after A.D. 300. The deletion of this passage is easily accounted for, but it is almost impossible to account for as an insertion. [Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary On the Whole Bible]
  3. According to Augustine (A.D. 354-430) it was omitted because some thought that it would encourage adultery. In reality, it condemns sin rather than condoning it. [Thru the Bible Vol 4 — Matthew Through Romans]
  • ignores source criticism. Many stories in the Bible are repeated, but with different emphasis, different details, and different language. These differences show that the Bible was written by different people at different times for different purposes,

This is nothing new. It well known that the Bible was written over a period of more than 1500 years, by about 40 different human writers, in three different languages. It was written mainly in Hebrew and Greek, but some portions of Daniel were written in Chaldee. These are all facts that go into properly interpreting the Bible. Talk.Origins ignores the hand of God in writing the Bible, and it was His inspiration that made it inerrant.

and their accounts were redacted by people with still different motives.

The Jewish scribes who copied the Old Testament were so detailed in their cross-checks, including counting the letters, that it is unlikely that any errors could have entered the text that way. And they were motivated by the reverent need to preserve the Word of God. Early Christians who copied the New Testament were likewise motivated by the reverent need to preserve the Word of God. Their methods were not as precise as the Jewish scribes, but they were still so careful that they caused few significant errors. Those who compiled the Bible into a single work did so out of devotion to God and the Christian faith. Talk.Origins ignores the hand of God in the preservation and transmission of His Word through all space and time.

  • ignores the reality of syncretism, the process by which rituals, concepts, etc. from one religion are adapted by another. Many Biblical stories show Sumerian and Canaanite influence, for example.

It is interesting that Talk Origins gives no actual examples of this, only examples of theoretical sources. This claim is based on several assumptions:

  1. The Bible was written later than is normally believed. For example, the Pentateuch—the five books of Moses—are often considered by scoffers to have been written after 500 B.C. instead of about 1,500 B.C.
  2. The standard accepted chronologies of nations such as ancient Egypt are 100% correct, when there is evidence that at least Egyptian chronologies may have been lengthened by centuries. Such a correction would place some Biblical events before the alleged sources. This suggests these "sources" were taken from the Biblical event, not the other way around. [Searching for Moses]

This claim ignores other possible explanations of such parallels. Including:

  1. There may be cases where individuals in the Bible did what they did partly on the basis of an idea that came from a story they heard from another source.
  2. The event in the Bible was possibly old enough that the sources were derived from the event but corrupted, while the Bible provided the true account.

The point is that the claim that parts of the Bible are influenced by original Sumerian and Canaanite stories is based on the assumption that the Bible is not true. It fails to consider the possibility that the Bible, or at least the events described in it, are true and are the source of the other stories.

  • ignores the values of the writers of the Bible, who likely didn't distinguish literalism or consider it important.

This is not only an absolutely baseless claim, but it can be shown to false. The Bible talks about a number of verifiable historical events such as the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. Not only do claims such as Talk.Origins' have no basis in fact, they are intended to dismiss the Biblical account of history.

The Bible was not written to record accurate histories, but to convey and persuade spiritual ideas.

It was written to do both. The Bible records accurate history as well as conveying spiritual ideas. How would Talk.Origins know the motives of the Bible writers! Their claim merely presents their own unbiblical beliefs as an excuse to dismiss the history of the Bible.

Those ideas may not even be the same to all people.

Here is yet another use of the relativist fallacy. The fact is that truth is truth. What is true is true for everybody even if they do not believe it.

It is ironic that people who purport to hold the Bible in such high esteem reject serious, objective study of it.

Those who hold the Bible in high esteem have no problem with serious, objective study of it, and if Talk.Origins would actually present some it might be worth considering. None of the examples given by Talk.Origins qualify as serious, objective study of the Bible. It is all the work of men who start with the assumption that the Bible is wrong and then try to find evidence that supports their assumption.

4. Jesus himself said that religious laws are not absolute. In Matt. 5:38, he rejects the "eye for an eye" law [Exod. 21:23-25, Lev. 24:19-20, Deut. 19:21].

The Mosaic Law was not just a religious law, but a civil law as well. The eye-for-an-eye principle was part of Israel's civil law. Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:19-20, and Deuteronomy 19:21 were dealing with punishment for various crimes. Jesus was not rejecting this civil legal principle, but rather was giving His disciples a strategy for dealing with evildoers that can turn even a life-and-death situation into an opportunity to be a witness for Jesus.

As an example, there was a young Christian man in the 7th grade during the late 1970s. He was threatened with a knife by a fellow student. When the perpetrator said, "I could carve your guts out with his knife," instead of resisting, or running—either of which would have emboldened the perpetrator—the young Christian replied, "True, but I would be in Heaven and you would be facing a murder charge." The perpetrator backed down dumbfounded, the crisis was over, and a life-and-death situation was turned into an opportunity to witness for Jesus.

Jesus rejected all dietary law [Mark 7:19; compare Lev. 11].

Talk Origins is taking this verse out of context. If one reads the entire chapter it is clear that Jesus was not rejecting the dietary laws of Leviticus 11. The Pharisees had added to the law ceremonial washings that they treated as the law itself, and it was their additions that Jesus was rejecting, not the actual Law.

He rejected the commandment about working on the Sabbath [Mark 2:27].

Once again Talk.Origins takes the verse out of context. If one looks at the context (Mark 2:23), the Pharisees had added to the law and then treated the additions as the law itself. They had added regulations to the Sabbath that made it a burden rather than the day of rest it was intended to be. It was their additions that Jesus rejected, not the actual Law.

If Jesus considered that even the laws of Moses were not inerrant, why should we consider any part of the Bible inerrant?

Talk.Origins is making a leap of logic here, as they are going from the laws of Moses' not being absolute to their not being inerrant. That is not the same thing. Also, the examples they give do not show Jesus rejecting the Law. Furthermore, even if the laws of Moses are not themselves "inerrant" in the sense of applicability in all cases for all times (except for the first two), the Bible still records them inerrantly.

Continued at: CH101b

See Also: