Christians use many different phrases to describe the Bible. Sometimes we call the Bible God’s Word, meaning that it is God’s primary form of communication with humanity. The Bible is how God speaks to people. We also refer to the Bible as inspired, meaning it is a book that ultimately originated in the mind of God rather than the plans of people. Men wrote the Bible, but God was the one who led them to do so. Another common name for the Bible is the Holy Bible, which distinguishes the Bible from every other book in the world, even other religious books. The Bible is holy—or set apart—because it alone is God’s means of teaching us his ways.
Inerrancy is one of those six-cylinder words that sound really technical, but it is one of the most important beliefs held by Christians.
One of the most important phrases used to describe the Bible is inerrant, which literally means “without error.” Inerrancy is one of those six-cylinder words that sound really technical, but it is one of the most important beliefs held by Christians. As such, it is crucial that we understand what it means and what is doesn’t mean.
What inerrancy is not
To say that the Bible is inerrant does not mean it was written with perfect grammar. Like all of us, sometimes the authors of Scripture made grammatical mistakes. Inerrancy doesn’t mean that the Bible is written with the same type of technical precision as an automotive repair manual. The biblical authors regularly use numerical estimates (1,000 instead of 977), observational descriptions of nature (“the sun rises” instead of “the earth rotates”), and free quotations (“someone once said” instead of “Butch once said”).
Inerrancy doesn’t mean that our English Bibles are perfect. All our Bibles are translations from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the languages the Bible was originally written in. We do not have those original manuscripts, but we have many that are almost as old as the originals. Even if we had originals, anyone who speaks more than one language knows that some words and phrases cannot perfectly be translated into another language, though the idea can still be communicated. Inerrancy definitely doesn’t mean that the Bible is easy to understand. Like any book, it needs to be interpreted, and some parts of the Bible are easier to figure out than others. So what does inerrancy mean?
What inerrancy is
Union University president David Dockery, in Christian Scripture: An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority, and Interpretation, defines inerrancy this way: “The idea that when all the facts are known, the Bible (in its autographs, that is, the original writings), properly interpreted in light of the culture and the means of communication that had developed by the time of its composition, is completely true in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author’s purpose, in all matters relating to God and His creation.”
Simply put, inerrancy means that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy.
Simply put, inerrancy means that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy. Scripture itself never lies (though it may record the lies of individuals)—it is always factual, reliable and accurate. Though some parts of Scripture are difficult to comprehend, this is because of us and not because of any supposed error, inconsistency or falsehood in the Bible.
To believe in inerrancy is to trust God
Christians believe that Scripture is totally truthful because they believe God is totally truthful.
The idea of inerrancy seems far-fetched to some—after all, the Bible was written by imperfect men, and all books are prone to error, even if they’re just innocent mistakes. Christians believe that Scripture is totally truthful because they believe God is totally truthful. Theologian J. I. Packer, in “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles, says we talk about the Bible this way “to express the conviction that all its teaching is the utterance of God ‘who cannot lie,’ whose word, once spoken, abides forever, and that therefore it may be trusted implicitly. In other words, we can trust the Bible because we can trust God.
What does the Bible say about its own trustworthiness?
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (ESV).” All Scripture is God’s word, and hence completely trustworthy. John 17:17 says “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (ESV).” To sanctify means to set apart and make more like Jesus.
We become more like Christ through a deeper understanding of God’s word, which is truth. In Isaiah 55:11, God claims “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (ESV).” God’s spoken word is perfect, powerful and always accomplished whatever God intends. The same could be said of God’s written word, the Bible.
God is truth, and his word is truth. So study the Bible.
God is truth, and his word is truth. So study the Bible. Meditate on the Bible. Practice what the Bible says. Let the truths of the Bible change your life. It is God’s trustworthy word to you and to me.