Bible Query from
Q: What does it mean that the Bible is "infallible"?
A: It does not mean without any errors whatsoever, but without significant error in doctrine or practice. A person can still be a genuine Christian as C.S. Lewis was, if they believe the Bible is infallible, but falsely think the Bible is not inerrant.
Q: When people say the Bible is "inerrant" what does that mean?
A: When conservative Christians say the Bible is inerrant, they mean without error in the original manuscripts. In subsequent, copies, God permitted copyist errors. All who say the Bible is inerrant say the Bible is infallible. But not all who say the Bible is infallible say it is inerrant.
See Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.45-48 for an easy to understand discussion on how the original text is inerrant, and the modern text, while still reliable, is only infallible. Other books that give similar descriptions of inerrancy are 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.17, When Critics Ask p.23-24, The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.13,25, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.7,16, and Difficulties in the Bible p.21-22. General Introduction to the Bible p.43, points out that the view of "inerrant autographs and errant copies" was also held by John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.).
Here are some detailed statements on inerrancy from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics taken from the General Introduction to the Bible p.444.
"Article XIII: WE AFFIRM that awareness of the literary categories, formal and stylistic, of the various parts of Scripture is essential for proper exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many disciplines of biblical study.
WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.
Article XV: WE AFFIRM the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to is literal, or normal sense. The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.
WE DENY the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does not support.
Article XVI: WE AFFIRM that legitimate critical techniques should be used in determining the canonical text and its meaning.
WE DENY the legitimacy of allowing any method of biblical criticism to question the truth or integrity of the writer’s expressed meaning, or of any other scriptural teaching."
For a detailed 19-article definition of inerrancy, one can consult the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, published in Inerrancy p.493-502. Article X affirms that only the autographs were inerrant. Article XIX affirms that a person does NOT have to believe in inerrancy in order to be a genuine Christian.
Q: If "inerrancy" does not have a problem saying small copyist errors have crept in, and the original manuscripts no longer exist, would it not be just as simple to say the errors were in the originals?
A: Conservative Christians do not believe that because of our view that the Bible is God’s word, and God did not make any mistakes when His word was originally written.
Q: Specifically, what distinguishes "inerrancy" from "hyper-literalness"?
A: Inerrancy allows for the following qualifications:
Anthropomorphic expressions, such as Exodus 8:19; 13:14; 15:8,12,16; Deuteronomy 7:19; Psalm 91:4; Hebrews 4:13
Copyist errors, such as in Numbers 3:28; 1 Kings 4:26; 2 Chronicles 18:12; 22:2,5; 36:9
Expressions of speech, such as Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 32:50.
Approximations, such as round numbers
Writing from a frame of reference, such as John writing what he heard and saw in Revelation
The human author’s style was used by God in the writing.
See the discussion on 2 Peter 1:21 for more on the inspiration of Scripture.
Q: What is the official Catholic position on the inerrancy of the Bible?
A: While many Catholic people have various views, here is the official church position.
Catholic Apologetics Today says the following.
"The Church has always insisted there is no error at all in Scripture. Thus Pius XII wrote (Divino afflante Spiritu), ‘In our age, the Vatican Council [I], to reject false teachings about inspiration, declared that these same books [of Scripture] must be considered ‘as sacred and canonical’ by the church, ‘not only because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and as such have been handed down to the Church.’ But then, when certain Catholic authors, contrary to this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine ... dared to restrict the truth of Holy Scripture to matters of faith and morals.... Our Predecessor of Immortal memory, Leo XIII, in an Encyclical, Providentissimus Deus... rightly and properly refuted those errors." (italics in the original)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Imprimi Potest) 1994, declares the following.
104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God.’"
107 "The inspired books teach the truth. Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confined to the Sacred Scriptures."
In Summary: The official Catholic position on the inerrancy of Scripture is identical to the evangelical/fundamentalist view of Scripture with the following exceptions.
1. The Catholic church accepts the modern Catholic Apocrypha, which are additional books and sections in the Catholic Old Testament.
2. The Catholic position is apparently silent about Scripture being inerrant in the original manuscripts but that God allowed insignificant copyist errors in some of the manuscripts we have.
3. The Catholic Church has differences on how to interpret Scripture, particularly in light of Catholic church tradition.
Q: When was the term "inerrant" first used?
A: According to an article by Paul D. Feinberg in Inerrancy (edited by Norman Geisler) p.292, Boethius, who lived in the late 6th and early 7th century used this to mean "absence of error". The Oxford English Dictionary says it was first used in 1837 in English to mean "exempt from error, free from mistake, infallible." Inerrancy was used as a noun about the same time.
Q: What evidence do we have that God is a Father (either of Jesus or of Christians) or has a Son?
A: In the Old Testament, the concept of God being a Father was quite common. 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; 22:10; 28:6; Psalm 2:7; Proverbs 3:12; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:19; 13:9; Hosea 11:1; Malachi 1:6; 2:10. Proverbs 30:4f (NET) says, "What is his name, and what is his son’s name? – if you know!"
In the 27 books of the New Testament, every single book except for 3 John either mentions that God is a Father, Jesus is a Son of God, or we are sons of God. For example, in Matthew 6:9 Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father, who is in Heaven...". In Revelation 21:7 we have the precious promise that "The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will e his God and he will be my son." (NET)
Q: What did the early Christians hear and teach about God being a Father or having a Son?
A: The early followers of Jesus just after the New Testament was written also wrote about this. Here are references from nine writers prior to 200 A.D..
First Clement (96-98 A.D.) ch.23 (son) ch.36
Epistle of Barnabas (c.70-130 A.D.) ch.5 (Son of God) ch.14
Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp (c.169 A.D.) 1st sentence, ch.14, etc.
Ignatius to the Ephesians (before 116 A.D.) ch.2, ch.3
Fragments of Papias (before 155 A.D.) Fragment 5 (2 times)
To Diognetus (c.130-200 A.D.) ch.10
First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.13 (son), ch.15 (2 times) (150 A.D.)
Athenagoras’ Plea for Christians (177 A.D.) ch.10 (2 times)
Theophilus to Autolycus (168-181/188 A.D.) book 1 ch.4, book 2 ch.22 (2 times)
Now how could so many Christians believe that God was a Father? It could only be that a) they learned that from Jesus, b) they learned that from Jesus’ apostles, c) they learned that from what was clear in the Old Testament, or d) all the above.
A thought for Muslims: Could someone view God as a Father, or worship Jesus as God in the Trinity and still go to paradise? Of course the Bible answers yes, but let’s look at this question from an Islamic perspective. From the time of Jesus on, those who believed in Jesus as a prophet of God believed Him to be God. Either God desired that all who tried to follow Jesus’ words would go to hellfire or else he did not fiendishly mislead all who wished to believe Jesus. If Jesus taught the truth (as Muslims agree He did), then do you believe that God wanted/allowed the knowledge that the prophet Jesus was from God to teach lies to everyone up to the time of Mohammed; lies that would send them to Hell? It is difficult to believe in a capricious, fiendish god like that, but then again, people without really thinking about it, have believed stranger things.
Q: Can I get to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior?
A: No, you cannot get to Heaven if you refuse to take Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Four points to consider in the answer.
Fairness: God is good, Holy, fair, and just to all (Hebrews 6:10) God’s judges people based on the knowledge they have (Romans 4:15; 5:13). Abraham did not know the name of Jesus, yet He followed God and He was still saved through Jesus. (John 8:56, Hebrews 9)
Only One Way: We cannot get to heaven on our own righteousness; we need God’s mercy and grace through Jesus. Jesus is not just a way to God, but the one and only way to God. (John 14:6; 15:5; Acts 4:12)
Reject Jesus as the Son of God and you reject Heaven: Even to a very religious people, the Jewish Pharisees, Jesus said that if you reject Him, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24)
God seeks: God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but as Jeremiah wept over his people (Jeremiah 13:17; 14:17) and as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) and Peter pleaded with his listeners (Acts 2:40), God, with no less desire, seeks out His own.
Q: Where did we get chapters and verses in the Bible?
A: Modern chapters and verses were made by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1228. The first Greek NT published with these chapters and verses was in 1551 by a printer in Paris, Robert Stephens, who also did the Vulgate in chapters and verses in 1555. The Geneva English Bible was the first with chapters and verses in 1560. See The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.148-149 for more info.
Q: Why don’t you believe all the prophets (including Mohammed)?
A: An Ahmaddiya could ask a Muslim the same question: why don’t Muslims believe their leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. But Baha’is can ask Ahmaddiyas the same question: why don’t they believe their prophets, the Bab and the Baha’ullah. Even Muslims would agree that we are not to believe Musailama al-Kadhdhab, and Anasi of San’a, because we can all agree we are not supposed to believe all the prophets when some are false prophets.
So we do not believe Mohammed, because Mohammed is a false prophet.
Of course a Jewish person could ask why both Christians follow Jesus, because the Jewish Talmud taught that Jesus was a false prophet. Going back even farther, Pharaoh of Egypt did not at first see that Moses was a true prophet.
So, given that we are to believe every prophet of God, and disbelieve every false prophet, how do you tell the true from the false prophets?
On this crucial issue God gives us two tests. In Deuteronomy 18:20-21, if they advocate worshipping other gods, or prophesy things that God did not command. 1 John 4:1-3 also adds that if they deny that Jesus came in the flesh, and Jeremiah 6:13 shows false prophets who spoke their own words as God’s words.
The Old Testament, which have copies of from the time of Jesus and before in the Dead Sea Scrolls, teaches very clearly that God is a Father, and believers are His sons, not in a sexual sense, but by being adopted into His family, being born again as a new creation. Mohammed and the Qur’an explicitly reject this. Mohammed, as a prophet, and the Qur’an as allegedly God’s Holy book, are saying false things about the true God.
Q: Why are you so negative about Islam?
A: We love Muslim people and wish the very best for them, that they would live in joy in Heaven forever. We are critical of Islam for their benefit. However, we are not nearly as negative about Islam as Muslims themselves. When worshippers at a mosque in Pakistan are gunned down, simply because they are Shi’ites, that is negative. When Tamerlane, who built a mosque, made a mound of 70,000 skulls of the Muslim people living in Isfahan that is rather negative.
Christians should not be negative toward Muslims (or anyone else) in three ways.
1. We never curse Muslims like Mohammed cursed us. At the end of Mohammed’s life he said, "May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets." (Bukhari vol.1 book 8 ch.55 no.427 p.255). Notice that he did not differentiate between true and hypocritical Christians, he just cursed all of them.
2. We do not want to say anything that "slanderous" (= false + negative). For example, that the Jews were wicked because they worshipped Ezra (‘Uzair) son of Allah, as the Qur’an in Sura 9:30 says.
3. Mohammed said to "lampoon the pagans in verse" according to Bukhari vol.8 book 72 ch.91 no.174 p.113.
So at least we can agree with modern Muslims (I hope) that be negative like this is not what God wants.
As for us, Jesus spent over 1/3 of all His recorded words either rebuking, warning specific people, warning in general, or correcting false things. He was encouraging also, and we are too. Not only do we ask, "What would Jesus do?", but we also should ask, "What would Jesus want us to say?" Yes we are "warners" like Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and even Jesus, but we want you to know that we also love you. We would never want to hurt you, even though Muslims hurt Christians, and we want only the best for you.
Q: Why do you Christians [allegedly] attack Muslims?
A: We care for Muslim people; we do not attack them. Three points to consider in the answer: Bosnians, Jesus, and villagers.
Bosnians: When Serbs were ruthlessly slaughtering Bosnian Muslims, Americans (of all religions) stood against that. Serbs might have perceived America as being against them, but we were not against Serbian people. We were for protecting the oppressed, and we were against the atrocities that some (but not all) Serbs did. Likewise we have nothing against the Afghans, as our aid shipments to them show, but when our own civilians were attacked, we responded to try to protect ourselves from this happening again.
Jesus said we were to turn the other cheek, and we do that as individuals. However, on a government level Romans 13:4 says it does not bear the sword in vain. Western culture is not Christian, though Christianity has heavily influenced it. Western culture is not always right, but we have a duty to stand against what is wrong. There are things wrong besides murdering people. Treating women as second class citizens, unwilling to work, whose witness is only half that of a man, and who should rarely be outside the home is another wrong. God is mocked when it is done in His name.
Villagers in Indonesia and Sudan have been slaughtered today by Muslims simply because they are Christians. Would you tell me why many Muslims across the world feel they should be doing this, and yet Muslims think of any peaceful, rational criticism of Islamic practices is an attack on them?
Q: Why did Christians have the Crusades against Muslims?
A: Jesus was the Prince of peace, and He never said to kill someone because they had a different religion. The "Christian" Crusades were not a part of the Christianity of the Bible. The Crusades (or Christian Jihads) were a wrong thing Europeans learned from Islamic Jihads.
Q: How do Christians pray?
A: The Bible has many prayers we can use as examples, but Jesus specifically taught His disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. Christians view prayer as talking with God; hence few Christian prayers are memorized. Christian prayers often end with phrases such as "in Jesus’ name", because it is by Jesus’ sacrifice that we have access to pray to the Father. (John 16:26)
Christians are to pray to God continuously, as commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:4;6; Hebrews 13:15; and by the examples in Romans 1:9-10, Colossians 1:9, and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 3:10.
This is unlike Islam, where there are specific times prayer is forbidden in Bukhari vol.2 book 21 ch.38 no.283 p.158. Fiqh us-Sunnah volume 2 p.11 says "‘Umar saw him and told him: ‘Sit, the People of the Book were destroyed because they did not differentiate between their prayers.’ The Prophet said: ‘Well said, Ibn al-Khattab.’"
Q: In the Dead Sea Scrolls extra-Biblical manuscripts, could the Righteous Teacher be a prophecy of Mohammed, Jesus, John the Baptist, or someone else?
A: No, because the one they called the righteous teacher had come before these manuscripts were written, according to the evidence of the manuscripts themselves. Here are the relevant parts taken from The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English by Florentino Garcia Martinez.
The Teacher of Righteousness came 390 + 20 years after the exile. The exile was in 586 B.C., so that would during the time of the Maccabees, well before the time of Christ.
"For when they were unfaithful in forsaking him, he [God] hid his face from Israel and from his sanctuary and delivered them up to the sword. However, when he remembered the covenant of the very first, he saved a remnant for Israel and did not deliver them up to destruction. And at the moment of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after having delivered them up into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, he visited them and caused to sprout from Israel and from Aaron a shoot of the planting, in order to possess his land and to become fat with the good things of his soil. And they realized their sin and knew that they were guilty men; but they were like blind persons and like those who grope for the path over twenty years. And God appraised their deeds, because they sought him with a perfect heart and raised up for them a Teacher of Righteousness, in order to direct them in the path of his heart." The Damascus Document copies from the Genizah (CD-A) col.1 lines 3-11. p.33
The same thing is mentioned in the copy of the Damascus Document 4Q268 (=4QD(c)) lines 13-17 p.48 and 4Q266 (=4QC(a)) fragment 2 lines 7-14 p.49. Note that while two manuscripts (A and B) are from a Jewish Geniza in Cairo and dated after 900 A.D., two other manuscripts are from around the time of Christ among the Dead Sea scrolls.
As an aside, the Teacher of Righteousness is mentioned prominently in the Habakkuk Pesher (1QpHab) col.1 line 13 p.198; col.2 line 2 p.198; col. 5 line 10 p.199; col.7 line 4 p.200; col.8 line 3 p.200; col.9 lines 9-10 p.201; col.11 line 5 p.201.
Also, there is a very brief mention of the Teacher of Righteousness in the Psalms Pesher 4Q173 fragment 1 p.206.
The Teacher of Righteousness was the founder of the Qumran community (p.liii)
The introduction also says that various discredited theories have claimed the Teacher of Righteousness was Jesus, or else John the Baptist, or else the apostle James). It adds, "However, in common to all these theories is denial of the conclusions reached by archaeological investigation, which infers that all the manuscripts were deposited in the cases (and by the same toke, were written) prior to the destruction of Khirbet Qumran in 68 CE. Above all, these theories deny the conclusions from palaeographic analysis of the manuscripts." (p.xlvii)
Florentino Garcia Martinez heads the Qumran Institute at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Q: What passages and words in the Bible are in Aramaic?
A: In the Old Testament Daniel 2:4b-7:28, where the topic of the Gentile nations is in Aramaic. Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26 are in Aramaic. Jeremiah 10:11 is in Aramaic. The name Jegar Sahadutha in Genesis 31:37 is in Aramaic.
In the New Testament Jesus’ words in Aramaic are recorded in Matthew 27:26a. John 19:8 says that the place of the stone pavement was called Gabbatha in Aramaic. In Mark 5:41 Jesus spoke to the little girl Talitha koum in Aramaic.
Q: In the Dead Sea Scrolls extra-Biblical manuscripts, could the [alleged] priestly Messiah be Jesus and the [alleged] kingly Messiah" be a prophecy of Mohammed, as one Muslim claimed?
A: No. First of all there is no "priestly Messiah" and no "kingly Messiah" in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Rather some Dead Sea scrolls have one messiah, and other Dead Sea scrolls have two messiahs, a messiah of Aaron and a messiah of Israel. Which tribe of Israel was Mohammed from? Since Mohammed was not from any tribe of Israel, one cannot say he could be either one.
Mention of the two messiahs of Aaron and Israel in The Rule of the Community 1QRule col.9 p.13-14
The regulations are to be followed, through the time of wickedness until the Messiah of Aaron arises. The Damascus Document CD-A col.12 line 23 p.43
Mention of the messiah (singular) of Aaron and Israel in The Damascus Document CD-A col.9 lines 10-11 p.45; col.19 lines 10-11 p.46; col.20 lines 1 p.46
Mention of the Messiah (singular) of Aaron and Israel. Q266 fragment 18 col.3 line 12 p.56
Furthermore, the messiah of Aaron is the same as the Teacher of Righteousness. "Its interpretation concerns the Priest, the Teacher of [Righteousness, whom] God chose to stand [in front of him, for] he installed him to found the congregation [of his chosen ones[ for him," Psalms Pesher 4Q171 Col.3 lines 13-16 p.205
The Rule of the Congregation (1Q28a) col.2 p.127 says many things about the Messiah. "when [God] begets the Messiah with them" (line 11 [God] is in Florentino’s book) . After, [The Me]ssiah of Israel shall ent[er] and before him shall sit the chiefs [of the clans of Israel, each] one according to his dignity," (lines 14-15).
Did Mohammed drink wine? "And [when] they gather at the table of community [or to drink] the new wine, and the table of community is prepared [and] the new wine [is mixed] for drinking, [no-one should stretch out] his hand to the first-fruit of the bread and of the [new wine] before the priest, for [he is the one who bl]esses the first-fruit of bread and of the new wine [and stretches out] his hand towards the bread before them. Afterwards the Messiah of Israel shall stretch out his hand towards the bread." lines 17-20.
Conclusion: The Messiah of Aaron is the Teacher of Righteousness (Psalms Pesher 4Q171 Col.3 lines 13-16 p.205), so it is not Christ. There is no kingly Messiah, only a Messiah of Israel, and Mohammed is not from Israel.
Q: Why answer so many questions?
A: This is as much a personal question as a question about the Bible, but here is the answer anyway.
Excluding answers of "craziness", "nothing better to do", and "too much time on my hands", I saw a need for this, prayed about it, and began this undertaking. This came from a four page handout I had when teaching a workshop on the Inerrancy of the Bible at a "Christian Life Retreat" at Forest Glen in the Spring of 1997. In this handout I thought I had answered all the important questions on Genesis.
Anyway, a number of Christians, many with much better skills than I have, have written a number of good books on answering Bible questions already. But while there answered 300, 500, or 800 questions fairly well, they were not comprehensive. Furthermore, the answers were not on in electronic format, and the copyright language was not such that Christians could copy and communicate the answers as they please. Here are the reasons why I think it is important to have answers to all these questions.
1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,". Skeptical non-believers claim the Bible is incorrect or contradictory, and believers need a place to go to have an answer.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." Christians themselves may have questions about doctrines and words.
Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is purified; he is like a shield for those who take refuge in him." (NET). While a person can still be a genuine Christian and believe the Bible had errors in the original manuscripts, I believe it is important to recognize that it is inerrant. However, it seems that when a Christian claims the Bible is inerrant, they ought to be able to access answers to nearly every objection someone could raise. This is what this work tries to do.
These answers might not always be the best ones, and that is why listed are the answers in various Christian books, which are often more extensive. If you think the answer here not adequate or could be improved, we would appreciate any suggestions you have.
For more info please contact Christian Debater P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714. www.BibleQuery.org