The Bible is viewed by most believers to be the Word of God. In fact, many people will nonchalantly say that—whether they have an idea of what that means or not. Set within this view is another perspective that dogmatically asserts the view that the Bible is actually the inerrant Word of God. Those who hold such a view, believe that the Bible is, as it appears today, a book with no contradictions and no mistakes; it is a book that contains absolute higher truth and nothing but higher truth. Most scholarly inerrantists, who actually have the slightest idea of the state our biblical texts are in, will usually clarify the statement by adding “in the original manuscripts.” What they mean is that the Bible is inspired and inerrant, but only in the original manuscripts. It does not take long before an honest seeker asks where those “original manuscripts” are. With good faith, and with a breath of fresh faith, the scholarly inerrantist would reply that they (i.e., “original manuscripts”) do not exist. They have all long perished. And the conversation would seize. For a long minute. A very long minute.
If it has not yet occurred to you that such thinking is ludicrous, then you must seize reading this and go engage in other matters. The problem with such thinking is rather self-evident: how can you believe in an inerrant text—that is now corrupted, but must have been originally inerrant—that no longer exists? How could you even claim that it existed if the evidence suggests otherwise? What would it take for me to convince you that the authors of the Bible were men who were writing history, as honestly and as godly as possible, yet who were also capable of making regular human errors? The answer: a contradiction or obvious mistake. But since contradiction is almost always labeled “alleged,” how could you test this idea? Answer: you cannot. (It is all circular reasoning. And, of course, not falsifiable.)
For example, if I wanted to know the truthfulness of something, I would naturally compare sources. If Mark, the earliest gospel, told me that Jesus could not perform miracles in His hometown, Nazareth (6:5), and Matthew said that He would not (13:58), is there not a difference? When there are stark differences, such as in 1 Sam. 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5, we strive to understand what is happening. In 1 Sam. 24:9, the census that David takes of Israel records 800,000 valiant men; the author of Chronicles records 1,100,100. The author of Chronicles was writing after the publication of the books of Kings and Samuel. He consistently edited out things and made past kings, like David, look bigger and better. He is obviously exaggerating the numbers of Israeli forces here. He completely eliminates the account of David’s affair with Bathsheba, found in 2 Samuel 11, and has Satan guide David’s census (1 Chronicles 21:1) rather than God, as in the earlier source of 2 Samuel 24:1. Later, God holds this as a sin against David—counting his troops was considered shameful and arrogant to God, for the power of the army was in the Lord, not in human strength. The Chronicler obviously tries to make David look better. So he says that it was Satan who really moved David. (God could not be possibly working against this holy saint of God!)
We must simply ask: which account is more reliable? Is Mark, the earlier gospel, more reliable? Are the books of Samuel and Kings more reliable than Chronicles? (And they are obviously earlier.) It is not my goal to destroy faith at all here; I am simply wondering what the truth of the matter is, so to speak. I would like to honestly know when someone is exaggerating a bit (and I do not find that offensive at all) or when someone is editing the story a bit to draw a brighter picture (in Chronicles, David no longer gets a bad image). I am simply a seeker of what really happened.
Now, back to the original question: how can we prove that the Bible is errant? If someone presented a hypothesis, say, that the earth was flat, wouldn’t we want to know what evidence it would take to prove the hypothesis wrong? We would say that if we were to see the earth as a globe, we would label the hypothesis as incorrect. Now, suppose I shot you up into space and you witnessed the globular earth, what would you do? I think that you would state that the “Flat Earth Theory” is incorrect. On what grounds? On the grounds that your eyes have seen a circular globe as our planet. Let us apply this same scenario to the Bible. If you were to test the truthfulness of the Bible, you would have to apply some sort of criterion for discovering that truth. You would say that the Bible is inerrant unless otherwise proven. But what would “prove” inerrancy, I ask? Well, obviously, a contradiction! But I have shown you contradictions, have I not?
The problem with inerrantists is that they fail to bring their logic to fruition. If obvious contradiction is not enough to prove errancy, then I do not know what is. If I present a contradiction, as I did with 1 Sam. 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5, the inerrantist quickly point out that the text must have suffered at the hands of the scribes. They point out that the numbers affect nothing and that they are unimportant. I suppose that they are sincerely right. But that does not answer the question. If contradictions prove that the Bible is errant, why do we have to keep arguing that the contradiction is actually a corruption of an inerrant text, when it is, to our very eyes, errant?! I conclude that this is all extremely circular reasoning. I have just proven that nothing can prove errancy. Because nothing can prove errancy, the whole system crashes. It ceases to be relevant and meaningful. If I cannot prove that the earth is flat, by any means whatsoever, why am I even engaging in debate? What is the entire purpose of defending a view that cannot be defended (for it cannot be destroyed, thus it needs no defending)? In fact, it appears that the entire purpose of the debate, from the inerrantists’ perspective, is to argue. Nothing more. For, if I have shown that no arguing is necessary (since inerrancy will remain for the inerrantist, no matter what), they are solely arguing for the sake of making argument. And that is not a very Christian thing to do.
As the arguments now stand, given by the inerrantist, there appears to be no reason for them. What further needs to be done is for us to take a closer look at inerrancy—a three-page paper could never do justice to the ensuing arguments—therefore, it would be proper for us to take a more thorough look. To be more precise, this will be a short critique of the book Inerrancy, which was written by fourteen evangelical scholars, in defense of the theory of inerrancy. I will be “attacking” it here.
The Beginning of Scripture
Since the earliest times, people everywhere have regarded something as given to them by God—the Greeks thought that the gods gave them living prophecies, the Jews thought that God gave them written prophecy—everyone thought that God, or gods, gave them something. Judaism, for the most part, taught that the singular God, YHWH, gave them the Law. It was revered and holy. Most people, back then, as now, were born into a world that said that God—or some group of gods—gave us, mere humans, something; be it a book, a living oracle, or the entire planet. We were all born thinking that God gave us something. Christianity teaches us that God gave us His Son and that God gave us the Holy Scriptures. Though the Christians cannot agree on which canon of Scripture came from God, all believe that God gave them. Some read Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) as Scripture, others read Tobit; some like the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, others prefer to read 1 Enoch (the apostle Jude, the brother of Jesus, for example). One way or another, God gave us something.
When Daniel was writing his book, or whoever it was, he was reading the book of Jeremiah as Scripture; that is, a message given by God. Daniel 9:2-3 tells us Daniel’s view of Jeremiah, it was Scripture to him. But Daniel wanted an interpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy year captivity prophecy—so he was inquiring God about the proper “interpretation” of the prophecy found in Jeremiah 25:11-12. The angel of God reinterpreted the prophecy for Daniel and turned the seventy years into seventy weeks of years—forever changing the original intent of Jeremiah’s; in fact, the angel basically destroyed Jeremiah’s point and totally nullified it (for a new generation)…
A few hundred years later, Jesus the Messiah also shared a relatively exalted view of Scripture (though He never defines His own canon of Scripture). He quoted some of the books as authoritative and breathed Scripture. Jesus once gave a sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth and said, after quoting some form of Isaiah 61:1-2, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV). To the “Jews” of the Johannine literature, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life…” (John 5:39 ESV). Even in His Temptation, Jesus quotes the Scriptures to the Devil (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). Jesus, like Paul (Gal. 3:16), believes that, at the very least, some passages of Scripture have been preserved faithfully and were inerrant—about this there is no doubt (Mark 2:25, 12:10; Matt. 19:4, 12:3, 21:16, 22:31; Luke 6:3, etc.).
One of Jesus’ most poignant, and widely (mis)quoted, statements is Matthew 5:17-20:
“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. 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. 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…”
According to Matthew’s version of Jesus—this saying of Jesus is only found in Matthew’s gospel—Jesus clearly believed even in some form of verbal inspiration (i.e., every word of the Law and the Prophets is of God).
Years later, when the Bible came to be viewed with suspicion by critical (German) scholars, this view of the Scriptures was turned to absolute mush. The negative critics would have no piece of this pie; for them, the Scriptures were mostly, if not thoroughly, human— products of the human mind. The Scriptures were full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and human blunders. Ever since the Renaissance and the days of the so-called Enlightenment, biblical scholars were doubting, here and there, some parts of the Scriptures. With theories such as Wellhausen’s circling around, some Reformed scholars decided to respond to the onslaught by the same extreme—where the critical scholars were applying extreme, harsh, unrealistic methods to the Bible, the “conservative” scholars responded with the same zeal and attributed every syllable to God Himself. One school of thought set out to destroy the Bible, while another school devoted itself entirely to saving the Bible. In the nineteenth century, B. B. Warfield, from the so-called Old Princeton school, sharpened his knives and began attacking the critics of the Scriptures. His views were articulated in this extremely turbulent time. He came out of the cage fight with the following statement:
“The church, then, has held from the beginning that the Bible is the Word of God in such a sense that its words, though written by men and bearing indelibly impressed upon them the marks of their human origin, were written, nevertheless, under such an influence of the Holy Ghost as to be also the words of God, the adequate expression of His mind and will. It has always been recognized that this concept of co-authorship implies that the Spirit’s superintendence extends to the choice of the words by the human authors (verbal inspiration), and preserves its product from everything inconsistent with a divine authorship—thus securing, among other things, that entire truthfulness which is everywhere presupposed in and asserted for Scripture by the Biblical writers (inerrancy).”
Warfield was adamant: Scripture was given by God, every word the author wrote was chosen by God. To argue his case, Warfield, along with every other inerrantist out there, used three primary verses for his thesis: 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21 and 3:15-16.
The author of 2 Timothy—virtually all scholars unanimously deny Pauline authorship of this epistle—tells us that “all writings are God-breathed” (πασα γραφη θεοπνευστος ). By “all writings” the author is referring to the Scriptures—by saying that they are “theopneustos,” the author means something along the lines of “inspired” or “God-given.”
In “Peter’s” second epistle—this epistle is the most problematic epistle in all of Christian history, being rejected by virtually all scholars, of all times, as pseudonymous (that is, forged in Peter’s name)—Peter tells us that no prophecy was ever given by man, rather, he says, it was given by God:
“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Elsewhere, Peter tells us that the Scriptures are being misunderstood and even misused. He says:
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
The inerrantists say that Peter is here equating Paul’s writings with Scripture. For them, this passage puts Paul’s writings (whatever writings the author has in mind is highly speculative) on par with the “other Scriptures.”
From such passages, among others, Warfield obtained his theology. Ever since, modern inerrantists have joined his train of thought and hooted for his bandwagon. Unfortunately, Warfield was wrong: he couldn’t even convince his followers, like G. C. Berkouwer.
Berkouwer, at first, accepted Warfield’s theory tooth and nail but later he chose to reject it: it was flawed. Berkouwer maintained that the Scriptures were God-given but they, nevertheless, contained normal human errors and blunders, like every other piece of (human) ancient literature. He maintained that the “theopneustos” of 2 Timothy actually referred to God’s breathing in His Spirit into us via the Scriptures. The Scriptures themselves were totally human products—God just chose to work through them. It’s almost as if they were an instrument; an instrument He uses to get His Spirit to us. His ideas are not without grounds; for example, in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul makes the case that wisdom and knowledge are nothing, only God’s power really changes lives. Therefore, the Scriptures, for Paul, serve a secondary purpose. In fact, if you have the Spirit, you could, theoretically, abandon the Scriptures (for that is the end—the Scriptures are just a means to that end [i.e., the acceptance of the Spirit]). Classical texts such as 1 John 1:10, Colossians 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, and Romans 8:15-16 are readily available. Passages such as these make the “internal testimony of the Holy Spirit” the real matter at hand.
Karl Barth took a similar approach towards Scripture as Berkouwer: he opposed inerrancy. For him, the Scriptures were to be read as human books that served as testimonies to God. They were inspired but errant. Harry Boer succinctly put it: “I wish now to emphasize that the books of the Bible as a collection of religious writings are as human as Pilgrim’s Progress, Paradise Lost, or Spurgeon’s Sermons.” In other words, we don’t treat John Bunyan’s works as Scripture, even though we know or think that they are inspired, right? The logic is impeccable. If we can read “inspired” books without making them Scripture, why should the Bible be viewed any different? Namely, if the Spirit works through Bunyan’s books, what is remarkably different about the Bible? The Spirit is working through both titles. Through Pilgrim’s Progress and through the collection of writings that we call the Bible.
In response to what conservative evangelicals have termed “neo-orthodoxy,” the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy was made. The enemies were those termed neo-orthodox, and the opposing party was made up of fundamentalist inerrantists. In October of 1978, three hundred pastors, scholars, and laymen gathered to formulate the Statement and endorse it. What they wrote was allegedly that which was “from the beginning” (though that is definitely a matter of great dispute). The rather short document basically stated the inerrantists position: the Bible (the 66-book Protestant canon) was inspired verbally and was inerrant. In nineteen articles, the committee proclaimed the message. The Scriptures were “God-given,” “without error or fault,” “inspired,” and “superintended by His Spirit.”Article III denied that the Bible was a revelation that merely led to—or pointed to—God; Article IV stated that human language was sufficient; Article V, the dispensational article, denied that any normative revelation may be given by God after the closure of the New Testament canon; Article X attributed absolute infallibility “only to the autographic text of the Scripture[s].” Amongst other things, the entire Statement was fairly biased; namely, it was of Reformed and dispensational tradition—the Statement made other Christian traditions, like classical Pentecostalism, appear totally invalid.
Fabricating Inerrancy: The Process of Ignorance
Inerrantists have frequently given Martin Luther “inerrantist” status—they claim that he was thoroughly orthodox and that his methods of exegesis were correct. One such inerrantist, Robert D. Preus, after spending pages upon pages quoting “orthodox” passages selectively out of Luther’s writings, makes only passing mention of Luther’s absolute rejection of the Epistle of James. In fact, in his footnotes, he virtually denies any unorthodox moves made by Luther; he sugarcoats Luther up and down with extra-thick and creamy coating, calling Luther’s rejection of James as resting on “fallacious” grounds. If a book failed to preach Christ and justification by faith alone, Luther regarded it, at the very least, inferior to the other books in the canon. Despite Luther’s dislike for the books of Esther and Revelations, Preus cunningly says, “Luther affirmed the absolute infallibility and truthfulness of Scripture. For Luther, as for those who went before him, this meant that Scripture (1) does not err to deceive in any way and (2) does not contradict itself.” Then Preus goes on to contradict himself by stating, regarding Luther’s obsession with Christ and justification by faith, “It was just his failure to find Christ and justification by faith in certain books of the Old and New Testaments (all antilegomena) that prompted Luther to depreciate the value of these books and question their canonicity.”
The contradiction and problem should be obvious: Luther believes in infallibility while throwing books out of the Bible? Are you crazy! Can you redefine infallibility for me, Preus? It appears that the inerrantists will crawl to Moscow and back in order to salvage their “heretical” ancestors. Luther does not, as Preus deceitfully says, believe in “infallibility.” Had he believed in the infallibility of the Scriptures, he would not have gone around throwing books out that did not suit his presumptions. If Luther believed, as Preus says, that the Bible contained no contradictions, he would not have had problems with James. James, as we all know, clearly presents a rather different view of justification: faith without works is dead (2:17). Paul, in Romans 3-4 and Galatians 3, too, makes statements on justification, but his views are somewhat different: faith, apart from works, justifies. Had Luther not seen the contradiction, he would have kept James on par with Paul’s writings. But he had seen the problem. And Preus tries to hide that fact. Luther believed that the Scriptures, that he originally received, were full of contradictions. Therefore, he was out having a field day trying to “clean” them up a bit. Because, like Marcion, he applied razor to the text, Luther, by his works (not by his faith or statements) revealed his true colors and thought: the Bible, as it had come down to him, was corrupted and needed to be freed from the antilegomena (books whose authority was doubted in the early church—this included, James, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelations). Luther did what scholars have been doing for centuries: eliminating textual corruptions (one must first admit the errancy of the manuscripts in order to practice the science of textual criticism!), deciding what should and should not be included (via our God-given reason), and thoroughly doubting what he was reading (one has to doubt James before tossing the epistle). It appears that Preus, along with some other inerrantists, represents the cause’s Mission Statement well: distort the truth, sugarcoat the “heretic,” and press tradition forward.
The Pillars of Conjectural Inerrancy
One of the main Pillars of inerrancy has already been attacked by me earlier (I snuck the attack in without your noticing): inerrancy is not falsifiable. No person can falsify inerrancy or destroy it. Why? One of the Grand Pillars of inerrancy is made of invisible stone. No physical human hands can destroy it. It is untouchable. Inerrancy rests well; it cannot be tested nor proved. However, some scholars maintain that it is a defendable theory—but how, since it is not falsifiable, remains shrouded in mystery as the Invisible Pillar itself. Gordon R. Lewis summarizes my point well (from an inerrantist’s perspective, of course):
“That interpretation is true which, without self-contradiction, fits all the relevant lines of data from the grammar, context, purpose, historical and cultural settings, and the rest of the Bible’s teaching on that subject. On some difficult passages we may not be able to come to a satisfactory resolution, but the interpreter committed to inerrancy need not ask whether in fact he is handling the word of truth. His only question is whether he is interpreting the word of truth in a worthy manner (2 Tim. 2:15).”
Lewis is doing the unthinkable right before our eyes. First, he, from the bat, tells us that inerrancy must be presupposed. Second, he says that the interpretation must follow the “rest of the Bible.” Question: which Bible are you talking about? Is it the Catholic canon or the Protestant one? Are we talking about the famous 108-book Ethiopian canon or…? Also, aren’t you working with other presuppositions; namely, the preconceived notion that your canon is of God and that the text selected was of God, too? Third, Lewis tells us that the interpreter must be “committed to inerrancy.” This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Inerrancy is thoroughly presupposed here. That is a matter of fact now, not merely my opinion of the inerrantists’ position. The second mistake is Lewis’ failure to recognize other canons as authoritative. Before aligning a text with “the rest of the Bible,” one must first state what the “rest of the Bible” really is. For example, if Tobit is to be included in the sacred canon of God’s Word, one must always presuppose the idea of predestination—as far as having our very wives predestined for us (Tobit 7). The third great mistake is the stress on “commitment.” Or, if one was to accept 2 Maccabees as authoritative, one would naturally pray for the dead. To further sharpen the argument, Lewis must then determine what specific text to accept as authoritative. Should one read the Greek Septuagint Daniel or the Hebrew Masoretic? Should one read the Alpha Text of Esther, Greek, or Hebrew? What about the shorter, and different, Jeremiah of the Septuagint? What Lewis is telling us is this: You will find problems in the Bible, but you must avoid them and ignore them and remain committed to your traditional, inherited presuppositions. A philosopher would be vomiting by now from such logic, but I must hold my tongue and continue.
Another inerrantist stated similar things as Lewis, except he was thoroughly honest and biased. Paul D. Feinberg writes, along similar lines of thought: “[W]e cannot preclude in advance the possibility that some of the historically or descriptively authoritative material may contain errors.” Here, we are told, that it is impossible to even think that errors are possible. “A key principle in the application of hermeneutics is the analogy of faith as taught by the Reformers. This principle merely says that we should attempt harmonize apparently contradictory statements in the Bible.” Once a passage smells of contradiction, one must resort to reconciliation. If two conclusions are reached, the first conclusion establishing a unity and the second pointing to contradiction, the “former is the correct interpretation.”
It should be obvious by now, that no errantist is lying when he states that the inerrantists’ position is full of holes and presuppositions.
The Problem of the Autographs: Inerrancy’s Brilliant Escape Clause
Suppose for a minute that two scientists, Jack and Bill, are doing some scientific research for NASA. On one beautiful summer evening, Jack pulls out a telescope and takes a peek at the sky. He points his telescope towards the moon and shouts to Bill, “Bill, take a look! I see a green man eating toast on the moon!” Bill, being rather surprised, and a very mature and serious scientist, takes the telescope and peeks at the moon. He says, “Jack, I see nothing! Nothing. What little green man are you talking about? I see no man and no toast!” Jack takes the telescope away and takes another peek. And behold, there is the little green man eating toast on the moon! Jack responds, “Bill, I see the man. He’s right there, eating toast.” And once again Bill takes the scope and sees nothing. By this time, Bill is irritated and tells Jack to prove it. Jack, on the other hand, is irritated that Bill does not believe him. What are they both to do? Well, being scientists, they resort to being inductive. But they cannot. You see, Jack sees the little green man, while Bill does not. Bill cannot prove nor disprove Jack’s sightings. They are to be accepted by faith. Bill must assume that (1) Jack is lying, (2) Jack is hallucinating, or (3) Jack’s little green man hides every time Bill takes a look. Inerrancy is the same. It cannot be proved nor disproved. Because it cannot be proved nor disproved, many scholars simply must resort to faith in the theory or simply resort to ignoring the theory (and theory it is). Feinberg admits the problem succinctly, “It might be objected that such a doctrine is unfalsifiable and therefore, if one were to use old positivist jargon, meaningless.” Inerrancy is, as has been often repeated, meaningless at the core. Nevertheless, I intend to offer the rebuttal that inerrantists make to this so-called “positivist jargon.”
Inerrantists, with a fair amount of good reason, rebut the argument of the “little green man on the moon eating toast,” by stating that it is, in theory, absolutely possible that when Bill looks, the little green man hides. In theory, that is totally possible. More to the point, if Moses seen God on Mount Sinai, it does not mean that if I ascended the mountain that I would see God. Maybe God is, hypothetically speaking, “hiding” every single time I climbed the mountain. Though such an argument is not without warrant, it is, nevertheless, not to be used in science. We cannot assume such ridiculous arguments in our day-to-day lives. Imagine what the world would look like if such logic, as championed by the inerrantists, existed! You would be walking down the street and a person would begin talking to his “mom.” She, of course, would not be there. But who knows? Maybe you just do not see her! (She disappears every single time you look!) It would be, if properly done in accordance with inerrantist logic, a world of lunatics! If such a world would not be termed crazy, then I do not know what world would qualify to be called “insane.”
Being sincerely honest, and having written one of the best chapters in Inerrancy (most were horribly dry and boring), Feinberg finally goes on to point out one of the flaws of his own theory: the fact that inerrancy is not falsifiable. He relays what opponents of inerrancy usually bring up, “Any time there is a difficulty, one can assign the problem to the copy, claiming it does not exist in the original.” Feinberg is right: if a problem is found in our current manuscripts, the “problem” can be “bypassed” by stating the following, “Well, our current manuscript contains this error but the original, I am sure, did not.” How can you falsify such an insane, ludicrous, lunatic—yet beautiful—statement? You cannot. You simply must turn to faith and assume that the original manuscript—the one that was breathed out (or into) by God—did not contain the obvious error.
For example, when Luke was copying Mark, he made an obvious mistake in Luke 9:28. Mark tells us that after Jesus had told the disciples that some of them would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God come with power, that six days later Jesus transfigured (with power and glory) before Peter, James, and John (9:1-3). Luke, on the other hand, says that it was “about eight days later” (9:28). To establish the fact that this is an obvious human error, one needs to realize that Mark, just about always, uses the Greek word “euthus” (ευθυς) which means “immediately.” He uses this transition between paragraphs all the time—almost as if that is the only Greek word he knows. But when Mark writes the Transfiguration account, he does the unthinkable: he uses a different transition. This time he is not generalizing; he is being precise. He writes “six days later.” We must all be on the alert as to what Mark is doing here. He is telling us that Jesus is about to fulfill His own prophecy. And in Mark 9:2-3 He does. Here are the parallel accounts (italics are mine):
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. (Mark 9:1-2 NIV).
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. (Luke 9:27-29 NIV).
Luke is already giving us a heads up—He tells us that it was “about” eight days later. Mark, on the other hand, has no “about”; he desires to be accurate. In fact, had he not wanted to be accurate, he would have used the Greek word “euthus.” Now, it is curious why Mark does not use this word. He is, in fact, trying to flash neon lights—he is being specific because he wants you to see that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy—in six days! Some atheists use this text to “prove” that Jesus Christ was wrong: He did not return before the death of His followers. The problem is that the interpreters may all be wrong. In Mark 9:1-3 and Luke 9:27-29, Jesus is speaking about His transfiguration, not His second coming. It is interesting to note that Matthew faithfully transcribes Mark’s account—he tells us that “six days later” (17:1) Jesus was transfigured before three of His disciples.
But what of inerrancy? What do we do? The solution, according to their presumptions, is reconciliation: Jesus must have been transfigured twice! Once after six days, and once after eight. (Not.) The inerrantists know that such a claim would even make old Grandma Jane laugh on Sunday morning. Therefore, they say that Luke must be counting Jesus’ speeches as occurring for roughly two days and then, at the end of his speech, Jesus issued the statement that some would not taste death before seeing the kingdom of God come with power. Basically, Jesus spoke for two days, issued the statement at the end of day two, and then six days later was transfigured. If you are good at math, then you know that six plus two equals eight. So, theoretically speaking, Luke was right and so were Mark and Matthew. Therefore, there is no contradiction. But who said it was? It is not a “contradiction,” just a regular human error of inexactness. Besides, six is a holy number in the Bible but eight…what ever happened in eight days?
And if things get really hard, one can always pull out the Ace in the card game: the argument from the autographs. All the inerrantist needs to do now is terminate the argument. And terminate it does! Who could argue against an invisible, never-before-seen, imaginary “original manuscript” (autograph) that is free from error? In fact, all an inerrantist has to do is say that the original Greek text of Luke read “six days later.” Problem solved. (Not really.)
To resort to the inspired, inerrant, “original manuscripts” is merely “weasel wording.” Most intelligent humans can easily see through this smoke screen. And the problem with the autograph(s) is not just that it does not exist—be it the singular, complete manuscript or the plural scattered collection of manuscripts—but that such a document is relatively meaningless for us today. Even if the autographs did exist, what purpose would they serve us if they had long ago turned to dust? As other scholars before me have said, the non-existence of the autograph and its total disappearance only—and very frighteningly—reassures us that God cares not about His Word, to the extent that the inerrantists say that He cares about it; or else He would have preserved some manuscript or group of manuscripts to this day that would have been recognized by most or some as authoritative. Had God bothered to totally and verbally inspire—or “spire,” as Warfield would have it—the original manuscripts, He would have went through all of the pains to maintain them verbally pure throughout the ages.
Inerrancy and Contradictions
We should predict the way that inerrantists handle contradictions by now. They resort to circular reasoning and insane “little-green-man-on-the-moon”-like arguments. They, too, have a hidden agenda and obvious presuppositions: inerrancy. For example, when dealing with the idea of error and contradiction, Warfield says it well: “[N]ot a single case of error can be proved [in the Bible]…” He was referring to historical, doctrinal, and scientific errors. Not one could be proved. And how right he was! Of course, with a theory that cannot be tested, cannot be disproved, cannot be proved, how could one go about “proving” anything? A closer, in-the-know look at the inerrantist methods will reveal my point clearly.
John W. Gerstner writes that when the Bible contradicts itself, one must figure out—in some instances—if one text is speaking phenomenologically (God only appears to be doing something but He’s really not doing it) or whether it is actually referring to an actual deed/action of God; an action that is not poetical or metaphorical. Sometimes, as all Bible readers know, God is said to be a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24). We all know that God may, or may not, be a consuming fire. He might just appear that way to us, or He really may be a fire. God is portrayed as “repenting” not a few times in Scripture (Genesis 6:6; Deut. 32:36; Jer. 18:10, etc.). However, in other places, God is portrayed as a God who does not repent (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29). What do we do with these rather weird and obvious contradictions? The inerrantists offer their best by saying, “Those passages of Scripture in which God is said to repent, are to be interpreted on the same principle as those in which He is said to ride on the wings of the wind, or walk through the earth.” Notice that this is mere speculation and hypothesizing—do the inerrantists really know that God does not “walk through the Earth”? Moreover, who said that He cannot? A mere human inerrantist? This is all presupposition. The inerrantist is coming to the text (eisegesis) with a bucket full of presuppositions and he thinks that everyone else must do the same. His presupposition is obvious: wherever he says the text is being phenomenological, it is phenomenological—wherever he says the text is speaking realistically and literally, it must be in accordance with his preconceived notions. It is all about him. Not about the Bible. His opinions and his ideas. It is about time the inerrantists woke up and realized their problems. It is not that the errantists are without problems, it is the fact that the inerrantists have many more.
The greatest thing to fall back on when debating, for the inerrantist, is to the alleged claim that Judaism believed in an error-free collection of Scriptures. Many inerrantists point out that Second Temple Judaism held on to an inerrant text. To be sure, such a view is held by both Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, but that was not the only view. Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our knowledge of ancient Judaism has literally exploded beyond recognition. We now know that the Essenes, the alleged authors and owners of the Scrolls, believed in contradictions. We know this simply from the fact that ancient genealogical tables, those found in the Torah, all have their numbers changed. Why? Because the ancients’ texts numbers, when added up, did not make any sense. So an Essene, or a Jewish scribe before him, would have altered the numbers to make them fit the picture because they were contradictory and did not make sense! Michael O. Wise, a renowned Dead Sea Scroll scholar, describes this “chronology problem” perfectly, I will quote him at length:
“Early in the transmission process of the biblical books, anonymous scribal copyists began to calculate the chronology of various events about which the Bible gives numerical information. For example, these scholars began to add up the numbers given in Genesis. They soon realized that, as presented in texts that had come down to them, these numbers imply that some of Noah’s ancestors lived through the Flood. Yet Genesis explicitly says the opposite: none survived other than those on the ark. The scholars solved the problem straightforwardly and efficiently. They simply changed the numbers. The unchanged version of the numbers survives in the text of the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (Gen. 5). For the most part our modern Bibles translate the traditional text and therefore present the changed numbers.”
The Greek Septuagint presents us with these ancient “pure and unchanged” numbers. But since most scholars prefer the Hebrew Masoretic text (sometimes called the “traditional text”) of the Hebrew Bible, Christians have not been seeing and reading these “contradictions”—it seems that the inerrantists have finally, in some way, won.
The Essenes also had many different versions of the same book. Some manuscript fragments agree with the shorter Septuagint Jeremiah, while other fragments agree with the Hebrew Masoretic text. The Essenes accepted both (different) versions as Scripture. This proves that Scripture, for this large Jewish sect, was rather fluid and not necessarily “static”; a prophet could go in and change the text (under the influence of the Holy Spirit, of course). A prophet could even write a text—which they did. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many texts purportedly written by Moses himself are found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Never-before-seen—and some “old”—Psalms of David have surfaced, too. Psalm 154, for hundreds of years preserved primarily by the Syrian church, was also found amongst the Scrolls, preserved in ancient Hebrew, almost perfectly intact. Though our Psalter has only 150 psalms, the community at Qumran preserved more ancient additional psalms. These so-called apocryphal texts are sometimes quoted in the Essene literature as Scripture. For example, Jubilees, an ancient Jewish text purportedly given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, was, for many years, considered Scripture by the Ethiopian church. It existed, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, only in Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Ethiopic translations. A large number of manuscripts of the book were found at Qumran. What is interesting is this: contrary to popular opinion, ancient Judaism had no set canon of Scripture and used other texts as Scripture. The Essenes quoted Jubilees as Scripture throughout their writings. Because of the evidence, it is simply wrong to say that the ancient Jews all believed in inerrancy, and, therefore, we should believe it. Alternatively, we must recognize that Scripture was treated as holy, yes, but not unalterable. Of course, it was mainly altered because of the presupposition that, as always, human scribes made mistakes. One way or another, inerrancy is impossible.
The Essenes accepted different versions of the same book as Scripture. This also proves, somewhat, that inerrancy—verbal inerrancy—is absolutely ruled out as a theological option for the Qumranites. If verbal inerrancy were an option, the Essenes would have selected one single version of a given text and would have only quoted that sole text as authoritative. However, because words did not really matter, they allowed paraphrase. Every single word was not important. That is where the Essenes—ancient Judaism, I dare say, too—do not agree with the inerrantists. The inerrantists meaninglessly claim that inerrancy is ancient, and, therefore, authoritative. (As if everything ancient is trustworthy.) But, as I have briefly shown, that is simply not true. What was accepted as Scripture by the Essenes was the text as a homogenous whole. It may be safe to say that they believed in the inerrancy of the holistic message.
What must be set in opposition to this view held by the Essenes and early Judaism is the view espoused by the inerrantists. (We have already seen how early Judaism did not universally accept verbal inspiration.) Robert D. Preus summarizes the inerrantists’ position well:
“It is significant that the church and the synagogue in the postapostolic age held an essentially identical view of Scripture [that is, an “inerrantist view”]. Normative Tannaite Judaism professed to teach nothing but what was taught explicitly or implicitly in the Old Testament Scriptures. Although their hermeneutical principles and interpretation were different from that of the New Testament writers and the early church fathers, their understanding of the nature of biblical authority seems to have been the same. Both groups believed that the contents of the Scriptures were consistent and homogenous and the there were no contradictions in Scripture. Scripture was considered to be the Word of God in the sense of representing verbal, cognitive revelation. The idea of progressive revelation was impossible, if such a notion meant that a complete and saving revelation was not given to Moses.”
There are a few things that are not exactly correct about this statement. First of all, early Judaism did not believe in a “complete and saving” revelation given to Moses. Had that been true, the Essenes would not have been writing additional material coming from the lips of Moses. It is true that Moses was prophet par excellence but that did not mean that everything he said was written—oral tradition was just as valid. Therefore, written Scripture was not necessarily more reputable than centuries old oral tradition. And such oral tradition was probably being written down by the Essenes and was being treated as Scripture. Secondly, it is simply not true that early Judaism believed in verbal revelation. Yes, later Rabbinic Judaism did—consummating in the Masoretic scribes of Tiberias—but that is reading later Rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism into the first-century.
Another rather narrow-minded view taught by the inerrantists is the belief that the Bible teaches inerrancy. They are correct that some of the Bible does teach some form (yet to be identified) of inerrancy, but other Scripture passages clearly suggest the complete opposite. Norman L. Geisler, one of the leading inerrantists in America, says, “The doctrine of inerrancy is the only valid conclusion from two clearly taught truths of Scripture: (1) the Bible is the very utterance of God; (2) whatever God affirms is completely true and without error.” There are so many things wrong with this statement that I will now treat it at some length here.
The doctrine of inerrancy is not the only “valid conclusion.” (In fact, who determines what is valid and what is not, Geisler?) Plenty of Scriptural passages highlight the fact that mankind has corrupted God’s written and oral Word. The prophet Jeremiah, who was active during the Babylonian Captivity, clearly reiterates my precise point: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie” (Jer. 8:8 ESV). There is no doubt here that Jeremiah is attacking the scribes at Jerusalem. He is attacking the Law head-on. This point is further sharpened in his attack of the sacrificial system—which he says never came from God but was totally fabricated by men (Jer. 7:22). It will simply do us justice to remember that Jesus himself annulled some laws and commands given by Moses to the people of Israel (Mark 10:1-12; Matt. 19:8).
As can be seen, Geisler is cherry-picking the text even though holding on to a view that suggests that the entire Bible is authoritative. His greatest mistake is his stating that “the Bible” is the “very utterance of God.” Again, which Bible? The Catholic canon or the Protestant? His list of presuppositions is never-ending. He completely ignores canon and reads a set canon into the first century. And that, again, is simply not true. Had that been true, there would not have been a need for the Council of Jamnia in 90 A.D. Long after the days of Jesus, the canon was still open and books were tossed between the borders of canonical and non-canonical.
The inerrantists are wrong in supposing that there is some imaginary “original” text to fall back on. Sure, for some books of the Bible, there very well may be. But for others—Judges, Daniel, Esther, etc.—that is simply not true. The Essenes have taught us that, and they have taught us well. Inerrancy cannot claim an “original” text when there appears to be no “original” text. What we can claim is this: we have a mass multitude of sometimes diverse and conflicting texts. Now, we can try to figure out what is most likely original—be it original to the author or to a group of authors—but we simply cannot believe in a bizarre original text that we will, most likely, never truly restore. (And if someone did restore it, who would accept it as authoritative?) Therefore, I conclude that the autograph card pulled by many inerrantists is simply an escape clause that has a multitude of issues and should be, at the very least, viewed with utter suspicion. Caution by both parties must be wisely exercised. Those who laugh at the autograph card must recognize that it could, in theory, exist, at least for some books of the Bible; those who accept the theory wholesale must admit that it is highly unlikely that we will ever restore the text.
What are we to do with a body of literature deemed Scripture but that is obviously somewhat corrupted? Do we simply proclaim the entire body of sacred literature as false and useless? Do we reject some parts and accept others? Do we become Marcions and bring razor to the text? Or do we simply accept the truth—the fact that inerrancy, from the very beginning, was a horrible idea? I don’t have many answers to offer. There are two extreme responses here. Paul D. Feinberg writes: “The Bible is a complete revelation of all that man needs for faith and practice.” In total opposition to this statement is Søren Kierkegaard’s: “In the main, a reformation which sets the Bible aside would have as much validity now as Luther’s breaking with the pope,” and so, “the Bible societies have done irreparable damage. Christianity has long needed a religious hero who in fear and trembling had the courage to forbid people to read the Bible.” Though Kierkegaard is obviously overstating his case—taking things to an extreme, using Jesus-like hyperbole—he is quite right. We need to take the Bible from the people because some of us (most?) do not understand much of it and use it in a way that defeats its own purpose. I shall conclude with a funny statistic: More than fifty percent of the people who believe that the Bible is inerrant cannot name the four Gospels! It is time for us to believe and read an errant text. The question should not be who believes in the inerrant Word of God, but who reads the errant Word. And that says enough.
Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev
 For “evidence” one may include the inconsistencies between Jesus’ life ministry in the Gospel parallels: did He go to Cana shortly after His baptism (Jn 2) or did He go to the mountains to be tempted for forty days (Mk 9-13; Mt 3:16-17 and 4:1-3; Lk 3:21-22 and 4:1-2); did He cleanse the Temple in the beginning of His ministry (Jn 2:13-25) or at the end (Mk 11:15-19; Mt 21:12-17; Lk 19:45-48, 20:1-8)? Was He involved in a Samaritan mission (Jn 4; Lk 10:30-37) or was He not (Mt 10:5-6, 15:24)? The Sermon on the Mount happened on a mountain (Mt 6:9) or on a plain (Lk 6:17). A downright mistake is whether Judas bought the field (Acts 1:16-19) or whether it were the Pharisees (Mt 27:6-7).
 Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980).
 Christ’s sometimes exalted view of Scripture, when it suited His purposes, is beautifully displayed by John W. Wenham, “Christ’s View of Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, pp. 3-36.
 It is always wise not to be anachronistic: do not look into your own 21st century Bible and define Jesus’ words—for we do not know what “prophets” He was talking about. He could have included Enoch as a prophet (1 Enoch) or He could have excluded some prophet or prophets. We must not read anything into this statement.
 Quoted by Henry Krabbendam, “B.B. Warfield vs. G.C. Berkouwer on Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 428.
 Even the conservative Bruce M. Metzger of Princeton Theological Seminary rejected Petrine authorship for this epistle. This is no place to list the problems but something may be said: (1) this epistle is first quoted in the late second century; (2) the authority of this epistle is doubted by many early Christians; and (3) this epistle is incorporating much of Jude and talks about the apostles as if they were something of the past.
 2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV.
 2 Peter 3:15-16 ESV.
 In scholarly circles, there is a debate over whether there were seven of Paul’s letters first circulating or ten. One way or another, 2 Peter does not include the Pastoral Epistles and probably Hebrews. In fact, he could be speaking about only a handful of letters, say, 1 Corinthians, Galatians and 1 Thessalonians—therefore, that would exclude many writings now found in our Western New Testament canon.
 G.C. Berkouwer, Holy Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 140.
 Quoted by Gordon R. Lewis, “The Human Authorship of Inspired Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 231. Italics in the original.
 The entire Statement can be found in the Appendix of Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 493-502.
 Footnote number 102 in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 481.
 Robert D. Preus, “The Early Church Through Luther,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 379.
 Ibid., 375. Italics in the original.
 Amongst the antilegomena one can include, along with the ancients: The Acts of Paul, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas.
 “The Human Authorship of Inspired Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 262-263. Italics mine.
 Paul D. Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 298.
 Ibid., 297.
 Ibid., 295.
 Ibid., 296.
 Circumcision occurred on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12), the tabernacle had eight frames (Ex. 26:25), Israel served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years (Judges 3:8), Ezekiel’s Temple had eight steps (Ezekiel 40:34), etc. I guess eight is both a holy and unholy number!
 One opponent of errancy calls the entire argument from the autograph “weasel words.” See the chapter by John H. Gerstner, “The View of the Bible Held by the Church: Calvin and the Westminster Divines,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 408.
Quoted by Henry Krabbendam, “B.B. Warfield vs. G.C. Berkouwer on Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 430.
 John H. Gerstner, “The View of the Bible Held by the Church: Calvin and the Westminster Divines,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 408.
 See the introduction to manuscript 4Q559 (termed “A Biblical Chronology”) in the excellent book that offers both translation and commentary by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 565.
 Ibid., 316-317.
 “The Early Church Through Luther,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 358.
 “Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 310.
 It is obvious that some books went through multiple editions. The book of Acts of Codex Alexandrinus is thought to be a different version of Acts offered by Luke or someone else. The twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John, too, is a later addition—this shows that texts went through multiple editions. Which one was, or is, “original”? The “original” gospel of John without the twenty-first chapter or the second edition gospel of John with it?
 “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 301.
 Quoted by Norman L. Geisler, “Philosophical Presuppositions of Biblical Errancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler, 331.
 For this odd statistic, see Robert W. Funk’s essay, “The Once and Future New Testament,” in The Canon Debate (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2008), 548.