Tag Archive: Bible Translation

Inerrancy Means Without Error Until it Doesn’t 

inerrancy

Recently, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) posted an interview of Dr. D.A. Carson. Carson is the president of The Gospel Coalition and a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity SchoolIvan Mesa, an editor for TGC, conducted the interview. Mesa begins the interview by defining what he believes has been the historic Christian belief on inerrancy. Mesa writes:

“Scripture cannot be broken,” our Lord Jesus said without qualification (John 10:35).  Throughout history his followers have believed the Bible, as a divinely given book, is fully trustworthy and contains no error. To use a more specific term, it’s inerrant.

Carson repeats this well-worn Evangelical belief:

The word “inerrancy” simply means without error; the doctrine of inerrancy is nothing more than the affirmation that the Bible always tells the truth.

Based on what Mesa and Carson have stated, it is easy to conclude that Evangelicals believe the Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 22:21, is without error. This article of faith is the foundation of Evangelical belief, and the vast majority of church members believe that the Bible they hold in their hands is without error. On Sunday, countless Evangelical pastors will remind parishioners that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Evangelicals will leave church on Sunday believing their precious KJV/NIV/NASB/ESV Bible is the without error, mistake, or contradiction.

Yet, these very same preachers will go to a pastors meetings on Tuesday and participate in discussions about the errors and contradictions in the Biblical text. These men of God KNOW that there is no such thing as an inerrant translation, yet they deliberately deceive church members about the nature of the Bible. These preachers know that doubting the Word of God is the first step out the door of the church. Better to cross one’s fingers behind one’s back when saying the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, than have church members doubting the infallibility, perspicuity, and veracity of the Bible

While both Mesa and Carson unapologetically claim to believe in inerrancy, they are less than honest about what they REALLY mean when they say the Bible is inerrant. Mesa asked Carson, “If the word ’inerrancy’ requires so much careful definition and discussion, is it still the best word to use today?”  Why does the word “inerrancy” require “much careful definition and discussion”? If the Bible is “inerrant,” what further explanation is needed?

Carson goes on to state:

a) Inerrancy is not to be confused with precisionism. We expect more precise statements only where the context demands them. “It took him three hours to walk home” may be a true statement, even if it took him two and three-quarters hours, provided the context leads the reader to expect rounded-off figures.

(b) Inerrancy does not refer to grammatical irregularities. To think otherwise is to misunderstand how language works: usage drives change, and in every culture the degree of conformity between usage and a somewhat artificial grammar-book ideal varies with different strata.

(c) The Bible includes countless passages where its “truthfulness” is not the controlling issue. Consider, for example, the anguished laments of Scripture—for example, Jesus’s anguished lament “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is true, of course, that Jesus said this, but as for the words themselves, the focus of interest is less on their truthfulness than on their meaning. By contrast, the assertion that Ehud was left-handed (Judges 3:15) makes a factual claim that is either true or untrue. This is one of the reasons why inerrancy is a useful expression. It is potentially misleading to say “all Scripture tells the truth” if we thereby convey the impression that “Scripture is nothing more than factual expressions.” But to say “all Scripture is inerrant” is to affirm that it is without error, and this negation of untruthfulness covers all of the Bible indiscriminately.

These and similar discussions of inerrancy may seem like nitpicking to some conservatives, while many liberals infer from such discussions that the term itself is useless if it requires so much “careful definition and discussion,” as your question puts it. But the obvious riposte is that once a word or concept is challenged, there is no important term that does not require “careful definition and discussion.” God? Love? Justification? Truth? Spiritual? Trinity? Messiah? Inerrancy is no different. Like the other words, and countless more like them, it can serve as a useful one-word summary, even while it needs unpacking with care and with great attention to what Scripture says.

In other words, Carson’s “inerrant” Bible is not without error after all. And what neither Carson or Mesas state in the interview, is that, for Evangelicals, inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts — the original texts that no one has ever seen. There are no original manuscripts, so, strictly speaking, inerrancy is a myth. It is a derivative belief based on the notion that since God is perfect in all his ways, somewhere in the process of giving his Words to man, there must have been perfect texts.

It is time for Mesa, Carson, and Evangelical pastors to admit to their congregations that the Bibles they hold in their hands (or read on their iPads) are not inerrant. They need to frankly confess that there are no original documents, and all that Christians have are cobbled-together Bibles littered with errors, contradictions, and internal inconsistencies. The so-called “inerrant” Bible is an Evangelical urban legend, believed only by those lacking training in theology and the Biblical texts. The man shouting THUS SAITH THE LORD, on Sunday? He doesn’t really believe what he is saying. At best, all he can say is this: THUS SAITH THE LORD, MAYBE.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelical churches to require members and new converts to read several of Bart Ehrman’s books about the text of the New Testament. Imagine how much fun a Bart Ehrman Sunday school class would be!

Evangelical scholars and educated pastors know the truth. Why aren’t they passing that truth on to the millions of Evangelicals who think the Bible is an inerrant book, authored by God, and perfectly-kept for 2,000 years?

Bob Gray Peddles Lie About New American Standard Bible

For many years Bob Gray pastored the Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas. After retiring, Gray handed off the franchise to his son. Longview Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church noted for its hyper-aggressive approach to evangelism. It is also known for its staunch defense of the King James version (KJV) of the Bible. According to the Grays, there is only one true, perfect, inerrant, infallible, inspired Bible, and that is the 1611 KJV. All other Bible translations are counterfeit, tools used by Satan to lead people astray. (never mind the fact that the Grays use the 1769 version of the KJV, not the 1611)

Recently, Bob Gray Sr, posted the following graphic on his blog:

from nasb to kjv

In Gray’s mind, Frank Logsdon’s repudiation of the New American Standard Bible is proof that modern translations of the Bible are counterfeits used by Satan to lead people astray. Logsdon’s story has been repeated countless times at IFB preacher’s meetings and conferences. But, here’s the problem…the story isn’t true. In fact, is a lie.

Years ago, the Lockman Foundation, the group that holds the copyright to the New American Standard Bible, released a statement about the  Frank Logsdon story:

The Board of Directors of The Lockman Foundation launched the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE translation work in the late 1950’s following the completion of the AMPLIFIED NEW TESTAMENT.  Dr. S. Franklin Logsdon was acquainted with Dewey Lockman, president of The Lockman Foundation, prior to Mr. Lockman’s death in 1974.  Mr. Logsdon was never a member of the Board of Directors, nor was he an employee of The Lockman Foundation.  Mr. Logsdon had no authority to hire employees or translators for the Foundation, to set policy, to vote, to hold office, to incur expenses, etc.  He cannot be considered “co-founder” of the NASB, nor part of The Lockman Foundation, nor part of the NASB translation team, nor did he write the forward of the NASB.  According to our records, he was present at board meetings on two occasions — once to hear a travel report; and once to deliver an “inspirational thought.”

Mr. Logsdon last wrote to Mr. Lockman in fall of 1973 that he was moving to Florida.  Mr. Lockman replied that he was surprised and saddened by his decision to leave the area.  Mr. Lockman passed away in January of 1974, and no further correspondence was exchanged between Frank Logsdon and The Lockman Foundation.  He resided in Florida until his passing some years ago.

The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God stands forever.  Isaiah 40:8  (NASB)

The Lockman Foundation

While this statement appears on James White’s Alpha and Omega Ministries website, Dr. Jay Wile, a creationist, confirmed with the Lockman Foundation that the statement is theirs.

I will let Bob Gray know that he is spreading a falsehood. It will be interesting to see what he does.

This lie can also be found on AV 1611, Defend and Proclaim the Faith, Jack Chick, to name a few.