By Norman L. Geisler
The Bible is inspired, but is it inerrant, that is without errors? The reason for a positive answer is simple: The Bible is the Word of God, and God cannot err; therefore, the Bible cannot err. To deny the inerrancy of the Bible one must either affirm that God can err or else that the Bible is not the Word of God.
God Cannot Err
The Scriptures declare emphatically that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18, NASB). Paul speaks of the “God who does not lie” (Titus 1:2, NIV). He is a God who, even if we are faithless, “He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13, NKJV). God is truth (see John 14:6),and so is His Word. Jesus said to the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). The psalmist exclaimed, “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160, NKJV).
The Bible is the Word of God
Jesus referred to the Old Testament as the “Word of God” which “cannot be broken” (John 10:35, NKJV). He said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18, NIV). Paul added, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). It came “from of the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4, NIV). Although human authors recorded the messages, “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, NIV).
Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, “You nullify the word of God by your tradition (Mark 7:13, NIV). Jesus turned their attention to the written Word of God by affirming over and over again, “It is written . . . It is written . . . It is written . . .” (see Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). This phrase occurs over ninety times in the New Testament. It is a strong indication of the divine authority of the written Word of God. Stressing the unfailing nature of God’s truth, the apostle Paul referred to the Scriptures as “the word of God” (Rom. 9:6, NASB).
The Logical Conclusion: The Bible Cannot Err
Yes, God has spoken, and He has not stuttered. The God of truth has given us the Word of Truth, and it does not contain any untruth in it. The Bible is the unerring Word of God.
What About Science and History?
Some have suggested that Scripture can always be trusted on spiritual and moral matters, but it is not always correct on historical matters. However, these matters are often inextricably interwoven with the historical and scientific. A close examination of Scripture reveals that the scientific (factual) and spiritual truths are often inseparable. For example, one cannot separate the spiritual truth of Christ’s resurrection from the fact that His body permanently vacated the tomb and later physically appeared (see Matt. 28:6; 1 Cor. 15:13-19). Likewise, if Jesus was not born of a biological virgin, then He is no different from the rest of the human race on whom the stigma of Adam’s sin rests (see Rom. 5:12). Further, the death of Christ for our sins cannot be detached from his shedding literal blood on the Cross, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22, KJV). And, Adam’s existence and fall cannot be a myth. If there were no literal Adam and no actual fall, then the spiritual teaching about inherited sin and eventual or physical death are wrong (see Rom. 5:12). Historical reality and the theological doctrine stand or fall together. Likewise, Jesus’ moral teaching about marriage was based on His teaching about God’s joining a literal Adam and Eve together in marriage (see Matt. 19:4-5). In each of these cases the moral or theological teaching is devoid of its meaning apart from the historical or factual event. If one denies that the literal space-time event occurred, then there is no basis for believing the scriptural doctrine built upon it.
Jesus often directly compared Old Testament events with important spiritual truths, such as His death and resurrection which were related to Jonah and the great fish (see Matt. 12:40). Or, His second coming as compared to the days of Noah (see Matt. 24:37-39). Both the occasion and the manner of that comparison make it clear that Jesus was affirming the historicity of those Old Testament events. Indeed, Jesus asserted to Nicodemus, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things” (John 3:12, NASB)? In short, if the Bible does not speak truthfully about the physical world, then it cannot be trusted when it speaks about the spiritual world. The two are intimately related.
What is Truth and Error?
Since the Bible is wholly true, it is necessary to specify more clearly what is meant by “truth” and what would constitute an “error.” By truth we signify that which corresponds to reality. An error, then, is what does not correspond to reality. Truth is telling it like it is. Error is not telling it like it is. Hence, nothing mistaken can be true, even if the author intended his mistake to be true. An error is a mistake, not simply something that is misleading. Otherwise, every sincere utterance ever made is true, even those that were grossly mistaken. Likewise, something is not true simply because it accomplishes its intended purpose, since many lies succeed.
The Bible clearly views truth as that which corresponds to reality and error what does not correspondence to reality. This is evident from the fact that the word “error” is used of unintentional mistakes (Lev. 4:2). The Bible everywhere implies a correspondence view of truth. For example, when the Ten Commandments declare “You shall not give false testimony” (Ex. 20:16, NIV), it implies that misrepresenting the facts is wrong. Likewise, a correspondence view of truth is used when the Jews said to the governor about Paul, “By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him” (Acts 24:8, NIV). In so doing, he adds, “You can easily verify” the facts (Acts 24:11, NIV).
Does the Humanness of the Bible Affect Its Truthfulness?
The Bible may be the inspired Word of God in some sense, but it is also human words. It had human authors, and “to err is human.” Hence, we are to expect some errors in the Bible. So goes the argument. In short, the clear and simple truth of God has been confused by the lie of Satan, the master of lies (see John 8:44).
Let us analyze what is wrong with this reasoning. A simple analogy will help. Consider some parallel but equally faulty reasoning: 1) Jesus was a human being. 2) Human beings sin. 3) Therefore, Jesus sinned. Any Bible student can readily see that this conclusion is wrong. Jesus was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15, NASB). He “had no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). Jesus was “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pet. 1:19, NIV). As John said of Jesus, “he is pure” and “righteous” (1 Jn. 3:3; 2:1, NIV). But, if Jesus never sinned, then what is wrong with the above argument that Jesus is human and humans sin, therefore, Jesus sinned? Where does the logic go astray?
The mistake is to assume that Jesus is like any other human. Sure, mere human beings sin. But, Jesus was not a mere human being. He was a perfect human being. Indeed, Jesus was not only human, but He was also God. Likewise, the Bible is not a mere human book. It is also the Word of God. Like Jesus, it is both divine and human. And just as Jesus was human but did not sin, even so the Bible is a human book but does not err. Both God’s living Word (Christ) and His written Word (Scripture) are human but do not err. They are divine and cannot err. There can no more be an error in God’s written Word than there was a sin in God’s living Word. God cannot err, period.