If inerrancy is false, is Catholicism false?

Does that prove Catholicism is false?

When I was evangelical, I was aware that there were many problems with Biblical inerrancy. I believed it, but I read other evangelicals who said that, even if the Bible had errors in it, Christianity could still be true.

However, from what I understand, if the Bible has errors in it, than that proves that the Church is not guided by God, because she said the Bible was without errors in ecumenical councils.

So, my essential question is… If the Bible has ONE error in it, does that prove that Catholicism is false (including the eucharist, the saints, etc.)?

First I want to say that I know the Christian Bible is the written Word of God,
Anyone who reads the bible knows that one account of what took place does not always agree with another one.
People may have disagreements with parts of the written Word, but if one will ask Jesus/Holy Spirit to clear up his or her misunderstanding they will find in the end to agree.
If one is a child in Christ he or she will not be able to comprehend the same words that a spiritual Christian is able to understand. Only God can bring us to understand God. The Holy Spirit had the words he wanted placed in the Bible, and only God can bring us to an understanding.
By the way a Spiritual Christian does not sin.
(1 Corinthians 3:1-3) “Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit; I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual. Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wrangling that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people? “

Well, yes and no. :slight_smile:

You are correct that the inerrancy of Scripture is a doctrine of the Church. If Scripture were not inerrant, then that would seem to undermine the Catholic Church’s teaching authority.

But we ought to be extremely cautious before we jump to the conclusion that the Bible has an error. There are three possibilities when we encounter an apparent error in Scripture:

[LIST=1]
*]It’s a bad translation;
*]It’s a textual gloss; or
*]Our own understanding of the passage is lacking
[/LIST]

You’d have to definitively and certainly rule out all three possibilities before you could reasonably conclude that an error exists.

[quote=Joe 5859] But we ought to be extremely cautious before we jump to the conclusion that the Bible has an error. There are three possibilities when we encounter an apparent error in Scripture:

[LIST=1]
*]It’s a bad translation;
*]It’s a textual gloss; or
*]Our own understanding of the passage is lacking
[/LIST]
You’d have to definitively and certainly rule out all three possibilities before you could reasonably conclude that an error exists.
[/quote]

Let’s add another possibility -

  1. The “infallible” Church declared non-canonical books to be canonical Scripture (or can you explain the many historical errors found in the book of Judith?).

Of course, this would mean that the “infallible” Church is not infallible, but I have yet to see any meaningful explanation of these errors. Perhaps you could tell us which if your 3 suggestions explains the rebuilding of the Temple 100 years before it was destroyed.

Joe,

I agree that we need to be cautious. I find many “top 100 contradictions” lists provided by skeptics to simply show off their own inability to read. I also know some websites that do great work defending inerrancy (tektonics, for example).

However, there are still a large number of sections in the Bible that seem to be in error. While many of them have POSSIBLE explanations, they are often not very probable. I’m still unsure about inerrancy, and intend to look at it more closely.

Nonetheless, my main question isn’t “is inerrancy true?” My main question is what happens if there really IS an error in scripture? How much of Catholicism would this disprove for you? Would it mean the eucharist isn’t Jesus’ body and blood? Would it mean the pope has no authority? Would it mean the end of all apostolic Christianity (Roman Catholic AND Eastern Orthodox)?

the Bible contains no errors in areas of faith and morals, as far as scientific explinations of certian events or even historical accounts the Bible is not alwayes accurate, but the Bible does not claim to be a science or a history text book, God chooses to use stories and written word so that we can more easily understand His message. you have also to remember that the Bible was written by men inspired by God who told them the ‘moral’ of the story but the details of who was king at the time or such may have been cloudy to an author.

[quote=VetA] the Bible contains no errors in areas of faith and morals, as far as scientific explinations of certian events or even historical accounts the Bible is not alwayes accurate, but the Bible does not claim to be a science or a history text book, God chooses to use stories and written word so that we can more easily understand His message. you have also to remember that the Bible was written by men inspired by God who told them the ‘moral’ of the story but the details of who was king at the time or such may have been cloudy to an author.
[/quote]

Could you please give some examples of an incorrect historical and/or scientific nature (outside of the deuterocanonical books)?

In a sense, yes. If the inerrancy of Scripture was false, then the Catholic Church could no longer claim infallibility and, it would seem, every doctrine would be up for grabs.

However, we should not overlook the simple fact that apostolic Christianity has not come crumbling to the ground, despite the best efforts of the new atheists. This is because there has been no monumental “discovery” that has turned the Bible on its head. All of the alleged contradictions have been talked about many times before throughout the centuries. No (credible) charge has been lobbed that has not received an explanation.

Mind you, we have to make sure we have a proper understanding of what the Church means by inerrancy. The inerrancy of Scripture pertains to those things that “God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (Dei Verbum 11). It pertains to faith and morals, not science.

Further, we have to make sure we understand what the literal sense of Scripture really means. The literal sense “is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation” (CCC 116). This means that we read poetry like poetry, allegory like allegory. Scripture is full of different styles of writing and we cannot read them all the same way as though they were all front page news articles in the local paper.

Here is one helpful website that responds to many of the common “contradictions”:

bringyou.to/apologetics/bible.htm#INDEX

Obviously, it is meant as an overview, not an in depth analysis of each one, but I’ve found it to be a good starting point for further consideration.

I can respect that one may not find certain responses compelling. But there are responses. Some of them are simply the musings of armchair theologians (which is why they might not be compelling), while others are a bit more sophisticated. As with any discipline, you have to sort the wheat from the chaff.

One of the best modern-day books I’ve read in defense of the Bible is actually “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel (even though he’s not Catholic). He gives a simple, yet compelling case for why we take Scripture seriously. It’s been over ten years since I read it, though, so it’s possible there are holes in his argument that I didn’t see at the time. :o

I wasn’t aware that ancient Jews and then ancient and modern Catholics read Tobit and Judith on an historical basis. Can you show me where they were ever considered historical?

I mean, take Tobit for instance. The author tells us that Tobit is the uncle of Ahiqar, a fictional character in ancient Persian literature.

In Judith, we have a similar situation when the author list King Nebuchadnezzar as the head of Assyria, when the good king is the head of Babylonia.

I don’t think anyone is reading this with a look for historical accuracy. By the same token, no one looks to Jesus for historical accuracy when he describes a king who forgives a man the debt of 10,000 talents. Do you have any idea how much money this would be?

I don’t know if these are errors or not, but I think skepics would bring up things like the cosmology of the Bible, the Bible’s story of creation, the flood, and Jesus’ birth in the time of Quirinius’ Census AND during the reign of Herod the great as some scientific and historical errors.

Vincent,
‘Inerrancy’ and ‘infallibility’ often cause headaches for many.
Here’s how I clear it up. I start with God not man.

God has willed a purpose and end for all mankind. Absolutely nothing can interfere, alter or cancel this end which God has willed - if so, God is not all powerful.

Whatever, whoever or however God chooses to accomplish His goals will indeed succeed to accomplish His goals and accomplish them perfectly. God’s efforts will be true - inerrant - and will not fail - infallible - simply because he is God. The instruments are not the determining factor for perfection nor do they even influence outcome. God alone is the determining factor and because of this perfection will be the result.

The mysterious part - and we must admit God’s ways are mysterious, far above our ability to fully comprehend - the mysterious part is that God is executing His inerrant and infallible plan within the very errant and very fallible realm of human activity.

That ‘thing’ we call the Bible is the product of human activity. Human traits are going to be found within it’s composition, human traits like errors. Errors in spelling, grammar, understanding, etc. These are present in the Bible - small wonder, humans produced it.

However, at the same time, something of God is present within this product of human industry. This “something” is usually some ‘truth’ God wants us to know about Himself or His plans or His creation. These ‘truths’ are generally referred to as revelation becuase men could not arrive at these ideas fully by human reason alone.

It is these truths - truths of faith and morals - that are inerrant. Every detail of every narrative is not inerrant. The human activity of comprehending is not inerrant. The human activity of writing is not inerrant. The human activity of copying and handing down the scriptures for thousands of years is not inerrant. Any human aspect of this phenomena is not inerrant save one, that God can use flawed human industry to announce and propagate His revelation.

And, again, this is mysterious, and it must be because it involves the mysterious God.

The people that go to extremes and claim all is perfect or all is imperfect are simply wrong.

God can write straight with crooked lines.

Don’t worry about figuring out which parts are divine or not and what they may mean. It is also part of God’s design for a group of people to discern these things and explain them to everyone. This group is called the Catholic Church. And because it is part of God’s design and will that they make known His revelation they will not fail in the task. What God wants this group to accomplish it will indeed accomplish because it is His will that they do so. In their task of discerning and presenting God’s revelation and will to the world these people will not fail. This group of corrupt, sinful, flawed humans will infallibly accomplish this end because it is God’s will that this occurs.

To summarize, it’s not the humans that are perfect it is God who is perfect.

This makes the Bible and the Church even more amazing and not less so.

Vincent, don’t lose hope like Cachonga has. God can accomplish in perfection whatever he wills even with flawed sinful men involved in the operation. That God wills us to be involved in His designs is a great mercy and proof of love on His part. Praise Him for this!

Hope this helped.

A simple historical example would be the Prodigal Son story.

Not only was this story in the Bible, but Jesus himself told it. Thus it HAS to be true, right?

There is a deep message about the unfailing mercy of God which is transparent Truth. But let me ask you this: did those three people really exist as historical persons? I suppose we never will know for sure, but the point is they may not have existed at all. Jesus may have made up the story to reveal a deeper Truth.

But that’s OK. No intellectually honest person will insist that Jesus had to have known some poor dysfunctional family like that.

Now one may say, “but that’s a parable, of course it isn’t true in that way, it is not supposed to”. To which I say, precisely.

It is actually even more complicated;
[LIST]
*]Which version of the text is to be considered inerrant - the originals (which we don’t have)? The copies? Which copies?
*]Which translation from which copy? All translations introduce differences, some slight and some significant.
[/LIST]These are some of the reasons the church doesn’t get real hung up on the concept of inerrancy - the word comes with a lot of baggage that just gets in the way.
Catholicism generally shuns using the actual word “inerrancy” because of the strong
connotation of literalist in­terpretation that it embodies. A quotation from the
Constitution on Divine Revelation illustrates the Catholic position:

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 confided to the sacred Scriptures *(Dei Verbum *§1l).

This assertion of a lack of error, which affirms the under­standing that sacred Scripture is inspired by God, is coupled with the charge to interpret the Scriptures carefully through the exploration of their expression:

Seeing that, in sacred Scripture, God speaks through men [sic] in human fashion, it follows that the interpreter of sacred Scripture, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to com­municate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words *(Dei Verbum *§ 12).

[FONT=Arial][size=2]Implicit in this stance is the recognition that interpreters must honor the various literary forms found in the Bible. The biblical authors employed many different forms (narratives, poems, hymns, laws, parables, miracle stories, proverbs, say­ings, apocalyptic visions, etc.) that require careful discern­ment to arrive at a proper understanding of their meaning.[/size][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial]The medium does affect the message. Another practical im­port of Vatican II’s position is that a Catholic interpretation of a passage of Scripture is not bothered by inconsistencies or inaccuracies that some of the ancient writings contain. Human errors of a scientific or historical nature are not un­expected in ancient literature, and the Bible is no exception[/FONT]

Historical:

Scientific:
Creation story maybe, parting of the red sea maybe, few more i cannot think of off of the top of my head

[quote=NotWorthy] I wasn’t aware that ancient Jews and then ancient and modern Catholics read Tobit and Judith on an historical basis. Can you show me where they were ever considered historical?
[/quote]

I wasn’t aware that ancient Jews considered these books as Scripture. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to how far back these books were considered as Scripture by the ancient Jews.

I mean, take Tobit for instance. The author tells us that Tobit is the uncle of Ahiqar, a fictional character in ancient Persian literature.

What makes you think this was treated as Scripture and not fiction?

In Judith, we have a similar situation when the author list King Nebuchadnezzar as the head of Assyria, when the good king is the head of Babylonia.

Just another example of where the deuterocanonical books disqualify themselves as being inspired Scriptures.

I don’t think anyone is reading this with a look for historical accuracy. By the same token, no one looks to Jesus for historical accuracy when he describes a king who forgives a man the debt of 10,000 talents. Do you have any idea how much money this would be?

Here is where you seem to be missing the boat - When Jesus told the parable of the king that forgave the great debt, did He name the king? Did He name the country? Did He name the time when this took place? The answer to all three is NO! Furthermore, Scripture is INSPIRED by God, and don’t you believe that God KNOWS history? Why would God want His name attached to a work that misrepresents history? Couldn’t God have inspired the author to give correct dates, times and names when recounting historical activities? “But”, you may say, “These were not meant to be historical”. Then why would God allow the author to use historical names, places and times that could be checked by historians for accuracy? Have you ever heard of Biblical Archeology? This is a field of archeology that seeks to prove (or disprove, depending on the archeologist) that the historical accounts recorded in Scripture actually happened. So far, not archeological find has ever disproven any claim made by Scripture of an historical event (that is, of Scripture excluding the deuterocanoncial books).

Lastly, which of the 3 explanations offered by Joe 5859 would you use to explain these contradictions with known history?

You know there’s know way of knowing for sure. They were found, at least in part, in such writings as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but there were other books considered unscriptural that were included in them. Also, they were quoted by the Early Church Fathers, many of which were Jewish converts.

But, since the Jews never had a Canon that they could agree on even amongst themselves, this is something that can’t be definitively stated.

Do you think the Church just brought these up out of the blue. Although She had the authority to do so, I don’t think this was the case.

For instance, the Council of Jamnia, it is claimed, rejected these. Why would they even feel the need to reject them if there were no question as to their Canonicity.

Unless the authors weren’t treating the book as a historical account. I think you present a false argument here. It’s like making up the rules in the 7th inning of a baseball game. Hmmm… you wouldn’t perhaps be a democrat, would you? :wink:

I’m not questioning whether there was a king that could have forgiven a servant a vast amount of money. But do you realize how much money 10,000 talents is? This is an astronomical amount.

I’ll look over Joe’s post.

[quote=Vincent9] I don’t know if these are errors or not, but I think skepics would bring up things like the cosmology of the Bible, the Bible’s story of creation, the flood, and Jesus’ birth in the time of Quirinius’ Census AND during the reign of Herod the great as some scientific and historical errors.
[/quote]

I would say that Gen 1 begins with the creation of life as we know it on Earth, not the beginning of all creation. We don’t know how far back God began His creation, when Lucifer led the rebellion in heaven and was cast out, or any of that information. I don’t have a problem with believing that the earth is thousands, millions or even billions of years old. I do have a very big problem believing something as faulty as evolution. There are things in nature that cannot be explained easily by evolution (notice how interdependant all life forms are on each other? Even plants, that convert sunlight to energy, need insects and birds to help pollinate, plus other animals to “fertilize” the ground, and even to exhale CO2 so they can breath). The historical questions regarding the birth, life and death of Jesus are well documented, and there has not (to my knowledge) ever been anything discovered to disprove any of it. If someone was to ask about an apparent contradiction, I would get more details (what Scripture are they referring to, what historical event, what scientific process, etc…, and then evaluate the claim and give a response). I know that when the measurement of the circumfrence of the laver that Solomon built for the Temple is not “scientifically” accurate, but I would answer that they didn’t have the detailed measuring devices we have today, and they very likely “rounded off” the total measurement, which (under the circumstances) is completely acceptable. They cannot be criticised for that any more than you can criticize the government for stating that the total population in the US is 350 Million (how convenient of our population to birth and die in multiples of 1 million).

Hope this helps!

This is where you are stuck.

I would use Joe’s reasoning:

Further, we have to make sure we understand what the literal sense of Scripture really means. The literal sense “is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation” (CCC 116). ** This means that we read poetry like poetry, allegory like allegory. Scripture is full of different styles of writing and we cannot read them all the same **way as though they were all front page news articles in the local paper.

For instance, do I read from the Song of Songs

My lover is for me a cluster of henna
from the vineyards of Engedi.

to mean that the author is in lover with a cluster of henna?

[quote=manygift1spirit] A simple historical example would be the Prodigal Son story.

[/quote]

And still the point is missed! You cannot use parables to disprove historical errors! When Jesus told the story, did He name the people? Did He name the time and place this occurred? NO, So it was never intended to be historical! This is nowhere near the same level as that found in the book of Judith! Now, ask me about the rich man and Lazarus. I would say that was a true story, because He named Lazarus. I would also suggest that the people He told the story to knew exactly who the rich man was (it would be similar to someone back in the early 1990’s saying, “There was a certain public servant who gained great popularity and rose to a high office, and there was a certain intern named Monica…” Many people would immediately know who the story was about).

patg - I believe the original writings were inerrant. Variations have crept in over the years, but there is not a single doctrine of faith that hinges on a textual variant (for example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not dependent upon a variant found in one particular manuscript). While I am not as familiar with texttual variations as I would like to be, I can say that it does not diminsh the Scriptures we have (at least the copies in the original Greek and Hebrew). I agree that translations can cause changes, which is why I try to avoid using the DR (this was translated from the Latin Vulgate, which was translated from the Greek and Hebrew, thereby being a translation of a translation).

As fascinating as the study of textual variants is, I would still ask - Are the Scriptures “God-Breathed” (as described by Paul in 2 Tim 3:16)? I would also ask for an example anywhere in the Scriptures that we (Catholic and Protestant) agree on, where you can find historical errors of the same magnitude as those found in the book of Judith.

[quote=VetA] Historical:
[/quote]

Already refuted (see post #15).

Scientific:
Creation story maybe, parting of the red sea maybe, few more i cannot think of off of the top of my head

Sounds like you beleive evolution is true and God lied about creation. Also, you seem to have a problem with miracles (like the crossing of the Red Sea). I would just say that a miracle is NOT scientific, so to include them as such is inappropriate.

[quote=NotWorthy] You know there’s know way of knowing for sure. They were found, at least in part, in such writings as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but there were other books considered unscriptural that were included in them. Also, they were quoted by the Early Church Fathers, many of which were Jewish converts.

But, since the Jews never had a Canon that they could agree on even amongst themselves, this is something that can’t be definitively stated.

[/quote]

Then why is it OK for you to use this as an argument?

Do you think the Church just brought these up out of the blue. Although She had the authority to do so, I don’t think this was the case.

Of course not. These were added to the Septuagint (in some form or other, along with other writings - which books depended upon which “version” (maybe not the best word to describe this) of the Septuagint you were reading), which was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (and other things).

For instance, the Council of Jamnia, it is claimed, rejected these. Why would they even feel the need to reject them if there were no question as to their Canonicity.

I keep hearing about this “council”, but I have never seen any evidence of it. Please name your source (I would love to see some credible documentation about it, and am almost ready to go to “Ask the Rabbi” for information on it). As I understand it, there was no “council”, Jamnia was a Rabbinical school, and the discussion was limited to Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon (see here).

Unless the authors weren’t treating the book as a historical account. I think you present a false argument here. It’s like making up the rules in the 7th inning of a baseball game. Hmmm… you wouldn’t perhaps be a democrat, would you? :wink:

Isn’t the author of Scripture God? He used men to write it, but isn’t He the author? And if Jesus didn’t misrepresent history in His parables (or anything else He said), why would God allow such errors in His inspired written Word? Was God incapable of keeping errors out of His inerrant Word? Was God incapable of preserving His inerrant Word? Even with the textual variants we have, we know that we have His inerrant Word faithfully represented.

How am I “making up the rules”? (and why resort to name calling? I had nothing to do with the Obamanation currently in the White House!). I’m being consistent in seperating parables from history.

I’m not questioning whether there was a king that could have forgiven a servant a vast amount of money. But do you realize how much money 10,000 talents is? This is an astronomical amount.

This is a PARABLE, not HISTORY. The amount is used to show that there is no way WE can ever pay for our own sins. We are ALL worthy of death and the eternal fires of hell, but God (the King), in His mercy, has forgiven His people (that, by the way, is a HISTORICAL FACT).

This is where you are stuck.

I don’t think so. First of all, the Song of Solomon does not name names, dates, empires, etc…, so it’s obviously not meant to be taken historically. Second, you did not answer the direct question - “which of the 3 explanations offered by Joe 5859 would you use to explain these contradictions with known history?” This, again, is referring to the historical contradictions found in Judith.

Matt. 9:36 - the people were “like sheep without a shepherd” is same as Judith 11:19 - sheep without a shepherd.

Mark 9:48 - description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched references Judith 16:17.

Luke 1:42 - Elizabeth’s declaration of Mary’s blessedness above all women follows Uzziah’s declaration in Judith 13:18.

2 Tim. 3:16 - the inspired Scripture that Paul was referring to included the deuterocanonical texts that the Protestants removed. The books Baruch, Tobit, Maccabees, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom and parts of Daniel and Esther were all included in the Septuagint that Jesus and the apostles used.
DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

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