The Inerrancy of Scripture

Dear Reggie,

I’ve been going over the proposed outline of the course on Apocalyptic Evangelism in the Fall 2001 BI Newsletter and was wondering if you could share your thoughts on the inerrancy of the Word. The dispute of the anti-missionaries that the Gentile translations are inferior is intimidating.

Inerrancy of the scripture is not a question in my heart, but my ability to articulate it is questionable. Since you included it in the outline, I’m hoping that you’ve wrestled with the issue already and can steer me in the right direction.

Blessings to you brother. I treasure the emails you’ve been sending out and long to get together with you at some appointed time for a more concentrated dose of your understanding of the scriptures.

Yours in Jesus,
Tom Q.

Hi Tom,
Actually, I just sent out a response on this question just a few days ago to another brother. I can get you a helpful bibliography together on this question, and even loan you a number of good books that I have, but it is a rather involved subject, not only from the ‘messianic’ perspective that has challenged you personally, but from the larger war on the Bible.

I am NOT sympathetic with the claim that Jewish Hebrew scholars have any ‘edge’ at all on getting at the original intention of the writers of scripture, or that they have any better access to biblical backgrounds, Hebraic idioms, or linguistic advantage. Though not as common as Jewish students of Hebrew, Christian scholars have all the same technical tools. That’s an old worn card that is always played to sweep us off our feet with claims of having the ‘inside track’. Both sides of the argument have linguistic scholars of the first rank; that is NOT the nature of the problem.

Translation is not merely an academic task. It is context sensitive, and decisions of translation are often a very spiritual matter. Within limits, a subjective bias can influence decisions between close options. If the stakes are high spiritually, and if there’s a close choice, such as in Zech 12:10, the orthodox Jew will, of course, avoid the translation that implies a meaning that favors the Christian interpretation, but NOT because his knowledge of Hebrew is superior. So, even the translator’s task must be governed by the Spirit, or else a subjective bias can compromise a close decision between reasonable possibilities.

But on the larger questions of the inerrancy of scripture, the classic article that provides THE definitive defense of this subject in the last century was written by Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield. He was a magnificent apologist for the evangelical faith in many areas, but played an especially key role in checking the flood of German higher criticism that was sweeping our academic institutions by storm with its wholesale assault on the authority of scripture. I would go as far as to say that except for men like Warfield, Vos, Machen, and a handful of others, America would not have its “Bible belts” today, and we’d be in even worse shape than we are now. But he’s your man on the doctrine of inerrancy.

In the love of Christ, Reggie

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