UNDERSTANDING INSPIRATION


Having established that the Bible is both human and divine, Dr. Thompson now considers a definition for "inspiration," and says that the classic texts of 2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Pet 1:19-21 fail to reveal any definition for inspiration.  He gives the following warning:

At the same time, one should be cautious about adding the nonbiblical categories to define inspiration that have been at the center of the "Battle for the Bible."  Because Scripture contains both human and the divine element, it is a mystery that resists our human definitions.1

We quickly learn that the specific "nonbiblical category" that Dr. Thompson wants taken out of this discussion of inspiration is "inerrancy."  We also learn that the idea of inspiration will remain a mystery because Scripture contains both the human and divine element.

Immediately after this, Dr. Thompson seeks to destroy the idea of scriptural inerrancy by presenting several alleged Bible discrepancies or contradictions.  I found this amazing, that a tactic used by atheists and the people of Islam toward the Bible was being used by someone who says he is a "believer."  However, after studying the movement of Liberal Protestantism, I realized that this is a common tactic of this group.

First I will address the idea of "inerrancy," then consider the multiple alleged Bible discrepancies/contradictions that Dr. Thompson introduces in his effort to defeat the notion of Biblical inerrancy and to force a change in the definition of "inspiration."

THE BIBLE DOESN'T CLAIM "INERRANCY"


Dr. Thompson is correct that the words "inerrancy" and "inerrant" are not found in the English Bible.  These words were coined as part of the ongoing dispute between fundamentalism and liberalism.  Ryrie summarizes this necessity for additional words to defend the Bible as follows:

Just to illustrate how times have changed, not many years ago all one had to say to affirm his belief in the full inspiration of the Bible was that he believed it was "the Word of God."  Then it became necessary to add "the inspired Word of God."  Later he had to include "the verbally inspired Word of God."  Then to mean the same thing he had to say "the plenary (fully), verbally inspired Word of God."  Then came the necessity to say "the plenary, verbally infallible, inspired Word of God." Today one has to say "the plenary, verbally, infallible, inspired, and inerrant-in-the original-manuscripts Word of God."  And even then, he may not communicate clearly!2

Each change in wording was due to an opposing view of Liberal Protestantism that said they shared the same definition, but actually did not believe all the Bible was free from error.  Thus, the term "inerrancy" was born to combat the liberal theologians attempts to confuse the issues with half-truths.

Although the word "inerrancy" is not found in the Bible, there are other words the Bible uses to describe God's written Word, such as "perfect," "sure," "right," "pure," "clean," and "true" (Ps 19:7-9; 119:89, 142, 151, 160, 172), as well as "wonderful" and "righteous" (Ps 119:129, 143).  The Scripture proclaims that the Word of God will stand forever (Isa 40:7; 1 Peter 1:23).

Psalm 19:7 explicitly says that "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul."  Here the English word perfect corresponds to the Hebrew word tamin, which means without defect, blameless (innocent, not liable for sin or wrong), and perfect.3  It does not carry the sense of being perfect in part, and liable for blame in the rest.  It speaks of God's whole Word as being completely without fault.  Jesus also calls God's word "truth":

17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 (ESV)

The word truth is from the the Greek word aletheia, which means "...truth, i.e., that which is in accord with what really happens, facts that correspond to a reality, whether historical (in the time/space continuum) Luke 4:24; Acts 4:27), or an eternal reality not limited to historical fact.4  Thus, Jesus describes God's Word as objective truth, as historical truth, as what really happened, and as the eternal reality that will happen in the future.  In such absolute and eternal truth there can be nothing false.  If there is something false, then the truth is excluded.

Jesus himself said that Scripture cannot be broken:

17  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:17-19 (ESV)

Please notice that so high was the view of Christ for the Scriptures that he would not allow even an iota or a dot to be changed.  In a similar fashion, in John 10:34, Jesus focused on ONE word in Ps 82:6 to make his point.  Paul used the same exact technique in Gal 3:16 when he referred to Gen 22:18.

Therefore, despite the observation that the words "inerrant" and "inerrancy" are not found in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament say that God's Word is perfect and true.  This is objective truth.  No manipulation of words can change this very basic concept.

ENDNOTES:
  1. Cukrowski, KL, Hamilton, MW, Thompson, JW.  God's Holy Fire: The Nature and Function of Scripture.  ACU Press, Abilene, TX, © 2002, pp 38-39.
  2. Ryrie, C. C., "The Inspiration of the Bible," from "A survey of Bible Doctrine," found in the Ryrie Study Bible NASB, ©1972 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
  3. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLH 9459, #7). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  4. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (GGK237). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.