Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Bible, Inerrancy, Infallibility, and Trust… pt I

The Bible, Inerrancy, Infallibility, and Trust… pt I

Many years ago I took a class on religious studies which the teacher would teach and give very ambiguous stands on what the bible taught. He would wax on and on about the different schools of thought and on “higher criticism”. In the end as I looked over the notes form class I found that I did not see the bible as “The God” book and started to look at other religious books. I would go into all the details as it comes around to developing a religion that was a bit of a Hodge Podge of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity with liberal doses of Edger Casey and the teachings of a student of Alistair Crowley… Looking back it was a mess… yet at the time, having lost confidence in the Bible it all made sense.

I often wonder if I was still saved or if up to that point if I had actually come to know Jesus. Yet, I realize God still holds us in His Hands, even when we swerve severely off the path and will do everything that is possible to help us gain our footing on the path again… but this is not about THAT story, rather about whether the Bible is trustworthy.

As far as the OT I do believe it has been preserved the best of any ancient writings. I think the Jews did much credit to God and to themselves as to the consistency and ability to pass on the Scripture faithfully… In many ways I so see the OT as very much inerrant as can be… The NT though seems to be a bit murkier to me as the bulk of writings do not exist as compared to the OT and the history of the writings are not as long.

I am a bit skeptical over words like “inerrancy” or “infallibility” as I can not give my own rational assent to the idea that the bible in inerrant… or to say it this way that other than the original documents that we have an inerrant bible. Now, the first issue is of translation. Even if the original documents are perfect in all their splendor there is the matter of complete trust in man’s ability to translate the Bible from the original language so that is it “inerrant”. We must then trust man’s ability to know the writer’s intent and usage of the language….

Case and point is this.

Irenaeus wrote in his Irenaeus Against Heresies this about how to understand Paul’s writings… Irenaeus, though still very young, was a contemporary with Polycarp who was a direct disciple of the Apostle John. John lived in Ephesus and taught at the same church Paul started… Irenaeus then should have a very good grasp on how John and Paul both thought. Irenaeus points out that the Gnostic’s were using what Paul wrote was in the wrong way… and in one case points out that to understand Paul, one must understand that Paul “breathes” in his writings… he takes breathes or pauses before he makes a point of emphasis. Here is one of the point Irenaeus states quoting from:

Chapter VII.-Reply to an Objection Founded on the Words of St. Paul (2 Corinthians 4:5). St. Paul Occasionally Uses Words Not in Their Grammatical, Sequence.

“1. As to their affirming that Paul said plainly in the Second [Epistle] to the Corinthians, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not,"51 and maintaining that there is indeed one god of this world, but another who is beyond all principality, and beginning, and power, we are not to blame if they, who give out that they do themselves know mysteries beyond God, know not how to read Paul. For if any one read the passage thus-according to Paul's custom, as I show elsewhere, and by many examples, that he uses transposition of words-"In whom God," then pointing it off, and making a slight interval, and at the same time read also the rest [of the sentence] in one [clause], "hath blinded the minds of them of this world that believe not," he shall find out the true [sense]; that it is contained in the expression, "God hath blinded the minds of the unbelievers of this world." And this is shown by means of the little interval [between the clause]. For Paul does not say, "the God of this world," as if recognising any other beyond Him; but he confessed God as indeed God. And he says, "the unbelievers of this world," because they shall not inherit the future age of incorruption. I shall show from Paul himself, how it is that God has blinded the minds of them that believe not, in the course of this work, that we may not just at present distract our mind from the matter in hand, [by wandering] at large.”

Yet here when I go to the most widely acclaimed and esteemed “anointed translation” the KJV, we read exactly what Irenaeus states is the wrong way.

“4. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” (2 Cor 4)

BTW Irenaeus is also fighting the dualist Platonist thought that is a big part of Gnosticism in the context of his writings. Here I think is an example of how it still has found it's way into the teachings of the church.

This is just one example that even the best translations will contain at least some error.

So until one finds the original documents and can confirm beyond any doubt there is no error, and then in all honesty I just can’t say, the bible is “inerrant”.

As far as infallibility, the same Protestants who write against the Catholic Church and traditions of the Church, seem to trust these same Catholics with the infallibility to be able to put the bible together in its present “infallible” form. They rail against the Catholics Church as apostate on one hand and then with the other trust that the Roman Catholic Church actually heard from God and was in that way “infallible” and able to take the books of the bible and give us our present cannon. This seems a most jumbled mess to me… so I will say that I do believe that there were Godly men who were able to take the “books” of the NT

I then must still come at the idea of inerrancy and infallibility from some other direction if I cannot trust that man has been faithful to God. Yet, again, to me the issue is not necessarily that man is faithful to God in keeping God’s Word, rather that God is faithful to His word and will fulfill it. So, though I do not trust man, I trust God…

I trust that even if there are some things that are not “inerrant” in our translations, God is able to work around or with the mistranslations. He is a great and mighty God and so I trust in Him.

Much of the NT scripture is quotations from the Septuagint which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew. Jesus would quote it, Paul, and much of Matthew as well as other passages are quoted out of the Septuagint.

Yet, if one takes the time to look at the NT to OT renderings, they often do nto state things the same… words are left out, or rephrased…

Romans 9:27 - 28"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."

Isaiah 10:22 - 23. Though your people, O Israel, be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land.

Or when Jesus reads from the Scroll of Isaiah, He reads it as:

Luke 4: 17. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19. to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Yet in Isaiah it reads differently:

Isaiah 61: 1. The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2. to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

It seems if this is a direct quote is should not change if the "doctrine" of inerrancy holds true… yet Jesus does not seem to even care that the wording is different, He seems more intent on the meaning and that the Spirit behind the words are intact. Notice that some who preach that we "must not add or take away from God's word" miss is that Jesus Himself did not seem as worried about that as they are. I think most often these miss the point... as adding and taking away from God's word has more to do with the Spirit behind the writing as opposed to the actual words themselves. This in not saying that the words have lost meaning, yet rather as Jesus stated about the Sabbath, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 - 28) I believe this is true of the Scripture also, and that Jesus is Lord of the Scripture as well.

Now that is the core I want to focus on… that if there is one area that is “infallible and inerrant”, is that the Spirit of the originals is very much in tact and with that we still have a trust worthy book in the Bible. God has preserved the Spirit of His Word though man may have not been that faithful.

The errors that are of focus often are not as egregious as those who oppose and attack the bible may present.

We have a faithful God, Who has given His written word… and so will preserve it in it essence.

Before someone goes off and starts stating what an apostate I am, let me tell you what you are missing if you feel that way still after what you read... I am saying I trust God at His word... and for His word... and I trust the Holy Spirit in that He is able to guide all in truth and knowledge of our salvation. If anything I am trusting more than one who must hold to the "doctrine" of inerrancy... Which is a doctrine of inference rather than unequivalently stated in the Scripture itself. IOW, there is not verse that says, "This book is inerrant". I will go more into the purpose and reason to trust scripture if one cannot place trust in the "doctrine" of inerrancy. Also, please note that there is great limitations on a blog as to what information and how much detail one can give. This is only but a brush off the top and not at all digging in deeply, though I sense I have gone deeper here than many have even given consideration to this topic.



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