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The Bible is inerrant

The Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy


Absolute Inerrancy in the Original Manuscripts


The doctrine of biblical inerrancy holds that Scripture, in its original autographs, is without error in all its affirmations, whether they relate to doctrine, historical facts, or matters pertaining to life and godliness. The conviction that the Bible is entirely true and reliable stems from its divine inspiration. As 2 Timothy 3:16 asserts, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." The term "inspired by God" translates the Greek "theopneustos," which literally means "God-breathed." This indicates that the Scriptures are uniquely sourced in the divine, not subject to the fallibility of human sources.


Preservation and Transmission of Biblical Texts


While the original manuscripts of the Bible are no longer extant, a substantial body of manuscript evidence supports the high degree of accuracy with which these texts have been transmitted through history. The process of copying texts in ancient times was conducted with an extraordinary degree of reverence and precision, particularly in the Jewish tradition of the Masoretes (circa 500-1000 C.E.). They meticulously copied the Hebrew Bible, maintaining a system of checks and balances that aimed to ensure no alteration of the text. Their methodology underscores the reliability of the biblical text as we have it today.


Moreover, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-20th century, with manuscripts dating as far back as the third century B.C.E., shows remarkable consistency with the Masoretic Text, which was the basis for most modern Old Testament translations. This consistency stretches over a thousand years of transmission, highlighting the textual integrity maintained across centuries.


The Role of Translation in Maintaining Inerrancy


When discussing the inerrancy of the Bible, the role of translations is crucial. While the original writings are considered inerrant, translations can vary based on the approach and philosophy adhered to by the translators. The doctrine of inerrancy applies primarily to the original texts. However, translations that adhere strictly to a literal philosophy, such as the Updated American Standard Version (UASV), strive to maintain as close a correspondence as possible to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.


Literal translations attempt to preserve the original words and phrases without imposing interpretative layers that might reflect the translators' biases or theological leanings. This approach minimizes the introduction of errors and supports the view of Scripture's reliability. An example of fidelity in translation can be seen in the rendering of divine names. Where the Hebrew text uses "JHVH," conservative translations might use "Jehovah" to reflect the personal name of God, adhering to a literal translation philosophy and respecting the textual integrity of the original Scriptures.


Challenges in Upholding Inerrancy in Translation


Despite the high standards maintained in literal translations, challenges remain due to the nuances of language and cultural contexts. Certain Hebrew or Greek terms may not have direct equivalents in modern languages, necessitating careful consideration in translation to maintain the meaning and spirit of the original text. For instance, the Greek word "agape," which is often translated as "love," carries specific connotations of selfless, sacrificial love that are integral to its biblical context. Translators must choose words that best align with these original meanings to preserve the text's inerrancy as much as possible in translation.


The Impact of Hermeneutics on Understanding Scripture


Hermeneutics, the science of interpretation, plays a significant role in how we understand and apply the Scriptures today. The historical-grammatical method, which focuses on understanding the text within its original historical context and according to its grammatical construction, supports a straightforward interpretation that aligns with the doctrine of inerrancy. This method avoids imposing modern sensibilities or allegorical interpretations that can distort the message.


By considering the historical setting, linguistic context, and the intended audience of the biblical writings, scholars and readers can approach the text with an aim toward uncovering the meaning intended by the original authors under divine inspiration. For example, understanding the cultural context of the Ephesian society helps elucidate passages in the Book of Ephesians, revealing the practical and doctrinal intentions of the Apostle Paul's words, which were directed toward a specific people and time yet continue to have universal applications.


In conclusion, the doctrine of inerrancy is foundational to a high view of Scripture. It asserts that the Bible, in its original manuscripts and when translated with rigorous adherence to literal methodologies, remains the authoritative, true, and reliable Word of God. This underpins not only theological understanding but also the practical application of biblical principles in the life of believers today.


About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is the CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored more than 220 books and is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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