THE BIBLE-WITHOUT ERROR
Although the Bible is one of the best sellers of all time, not all believe the same thing about the nature of the Bible. Is it a book written by gifted men without the involvement of any supernatural element in the writing? Or is it a book produced by a miracle of God as He worked through human authors?
Many people in the world do not consider the Bible to be anything special at all. Unbelievers may respect the Bible in a vague sense, but it is obvious that they reject it as God’s Word since they refuse to do what it says. And it is not just atheists and agnostics who hold this view; even some religious people do not believe in God as He is presented in the Bible.
Others take the Bible seriously, but they do not believe it is really God’s Word. These people may say it contains God’s Word, but they do not think that all of it is God’s Word. Some make experience the test of whether it is God’s Word or not. They maintain that if some part of the Bible speaks to an individual in his experience, then that portion becomes God’s Word to him. This view makes experience the criterion of truth. But one must always move from truth to experience, not from experience to truth.
Those who hold to conservative theological views accept the Bible as God’s Word in its entirety. Accepting the Bible as God’s Word, they base everything on the direct teaching and principles set forth in the Scriptures. They hold that the Scriptures are the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. The test of truth, to this group, is not the teaching of a particular denomination or religious segment of society but the teaching of the Bible itself.
Inasmuch as these various views are held by sincere people, this question arises: Which group is right?
The key subject involved in determining the true nature of the Bible is known as “inspiration.” This is one of three terms that need to be carefully distinguished. “Revelation” refers to God’s act of communicating truths to people. “Inspiration” refers to the recording of the message God revealed. “Illumination” refers to the understanding of what has been revealed. So inspiration is that study which concerns the recording of the Scriptures. Our need today is not inspiration, inasmuch as the Scriptures have been completed; our need is for illumination so we can understand what has been recorded.
In answering the question of which group is correct about its view of inspiration and the extent of inspiration, the apostles and Jesus Christ Himself give us the answer in what they said and wrote. The Apostle Paul wrote: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16).
The word translated “inspiration” in this verse is theopneustos, which literally means “God-breathed.” It was not that the men wrote the Scriptures and then God breathed into them inspiration; rather, the Scriptures were God-breathed in that they originated with God, and the human authors recorded only what God wanted them to record.
All scripture is inspired by God in that all of it was breathed out, or given, by God. This verse states the fact of inspiration as well as mentioning that “all scripture is God-breathed.” A word that is commonly used in referring to the inspiration of all of the Scriptures is “plenary,” meaning “full.” Not just part
of the Bible is God-breathed, all of it is God-breathed.
The Apostle Peter referred to the method of inspiration when he wrote: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Pet. 1:20,21). Peter’s statement that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” has often been used out of context. Sometimes this statement is used by those who believe that only the clergy or church hierarchy has a right to interpret what the Scriptures say. Such a position is contrary to the Scriptures and is contrary to the context of this passage. Verse 21 reveals that, in contrast to a prophecy’s being of private interpretation, it “came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” It was not of “private interpretation” in that the individual writer did not originate the prophecy; he wrote as he was “moved by the Holy Ghost.” The word translated “moved” is the same word translated “drive” in Acts 27:15: “When the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.” Just as the ship was borne along, or driven, by the wind, so the writers of the Scriptures were borne along by the Holy Spirit as they penned the words of scripture.
Inspiration involved a miracle of God, for in inspiration God allowed the human authors to express their personalities, yet He superintended in such a way that the words they chose were precisely the words He guided them to choose. The result was an expression of the writer’s personality, yet it was a record that was without error when originally written.
There are those today, even in conservative theological circles, who maintain that the Bible has authority but that it was not without error, or inerrant, when originally written. Although we do not have available the original manuscripts, there are copies that date close enough to the original that it is possible to establish with a great amount of certainty what the originals said. Determining the correct reading when manuscripts differ is a complex science known as “textual criticism.” Conservative theologians who have given their lives to the study of manuscripts assure us that comparatively little doubt remains as to what was contained in the original writings.
As to whether or not the original writings contained error as they were inspired by God, Matthew 5:18 gives us the view of Jesus Christ Himself: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The word “jot” refers to the smallest Hebrew letter, and the word “tittle” refers to the minute ornaments that distinguished one letter from another, such as with the English “0” and “Q.” From this verse we see the extent of inspiration. It is apparent that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself believed that there were no errors in the original writings. Not only was this true when the Scriptures touched on spiritual matters but also when they touched on historical and scientific facts. The view which holds that even the words involved were inspired is known as “verbal” inspiration.
On another occasion Jesus said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Although not all of the Scriptures were written at the time He spoke, what Christ said of those already written would also apply to those written later.
Although some today defend the authority of the Scriptures without believing in inerrancy, one cannot have ultimate authority without inerrancy, for statements that are not completely true cannot be absolutely authoritative. To change even a single word in a sentence changes, to a degree, the meaning of that sentence.
Thus we see that the only view of inspiration that is in agreement with what Christ and the apostles said is the verbal, plenary view. All of the words in the original writings were God-breathed and without error.
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