Is the Bible Inerrant?

Not interested in debating at this time. More interested in getting what the pulse is.

The Bible is not a history book…although it does contain history. The Bible is not a science book, so it’s “world view” is based on “pre-scientific” understanding of the nature of the universe. The Bible is not a book of psychology…but does hit on psychological issues that have plagued mankind as long as humans have walked the Earth.

The Bible is not some high theological treatise which details the nature and being of God…it is a very human attempt and record of a small portion of humaities experience with God…it is inspired in that men moved by the Holy Spirit to recored these experiences, filtered through human experience and ideas…the writings of scripture point us to the Source…it is not the Source itself…it is a marvelous, wonderous very HUMAN book written over time by very imperfect people…it is such a human book I would think if most of the Bibles were slapped…dust would fly off their covers.:slight_smile:

I believe that I am an earnest Christian, struggling like all of us to be a faithful follower of Christ. I find much inspiration in the Bible and, over the years, have participated in various Bible study groups and read rather widely re scriptures, from the early Church Fathers to contemporary scholars of the scriptures.

 However, the Bible has many weaknesses. It would take too long to document this in any details but let me tell of a couple experiences.

 I was raised to believe the Bible literally - every bit of it. Somehow, at age 12, I ran across the "Age of Reason" by the early US patriot, Tom Paine. I had believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible referred to as the Books of Moses. However, Paine pointed out that, among other things, those books refer to Moses as "the meekest man who ever lived" and also record his death and burial.

  In my high school days I was an avid Bible student and enthusiast and was invited to serve as a teacher-aide in Sunday School - 4th grade. It was my turn to present a lesson, this one on Joshua and the battle of Jericho, a story that kids usually enjoy. In reading the Bible I discovered that God ordered Joshua to slaughter every man, woman and child once he captured the city (except the harlot Rahab and her family, who had sided with the invaders). When I read that I had to ask myself: would my loving, merciful God, who gave us the Ten Commandments ('thou shalt not kill') and the Sermon on the Mount ('love yhour enemy'), order such an atrocity? I had to say no! So, that weakened my confidence in Biblical inerrancy. This sort of ungodly conduct appears elsewhere, as when Jehovah supposedly ordered Saul and slay every single Amalekite (men, women, children and 'sucklings'). How many babies even in the womb were killed? How does that fit into a pro-life theology?

  And I could go on. Do we go along with Ex. 21, Lev. 20, Deut. 22-23, etc. Do we believe the verse: "Suffer not a witch to live?" What about what clearly seems to be acceptance of slavery in scripture? Even selling a daughter into slavery!!! I also have some trouble with St. Paul (most of whose writings I accept) when he says that women should be silent in church. Doesn't this rule out women reading the lessons, etc? 

  We could go on, but I assume that the longer the posting the less it may be read.

  God bless those of every creed, color and country, and may religion bec ome a bridge and not a barrier.

I prefer to say “indefectable”. The Bible does not fail to do in what it sets out to do.

For example, there is a list of forbidden food to the Israelites ini Leviticus. In this list, it says that rabbits chew cud (they don’t) and that bats are birds (they aren’t).

However, in the historical context, God was having to deal with a rabble of newly-freed slaves who for 400 years had been taught what to think and what to do and who had their food provided for them (as generally happens in slave cultures). They didn’t know how to take care of themselves, and were just one or two steps removed from a roving mob of desert marauders. They needed simple rules about what to eat and not to eat for their own health and safety.

The object was clearly, “Don’t eat bats! They are nasty!”

As for the Joshua and Jericho story, sometimes the Bible is not God’s words, but God’s record of man’s words and actions.

Sorry but you missed it

The bible is inerrant but the interpretations of that document are not always errant, and it is not a science or history document even though it contains some history and science facts

I believe the Bible teaches truth without error.

God bless

I had a similar journey…I found I didn’t have to believe every story as fact…or that every story told of atrocities in the name of God occured because God commanded it…the will of God is often filtered through our own understanding…we perceive things very imperfectly…“through a glass darkly”. Primitive culture and mores and understanding of how this world operates often colored perceptions of those who sought to convey their understanding of this One God.

“In the fullness of time…God sent forth his son…born of a woman…born under the law…” In Jesus of Nazareth God’s final Word was spoken as to what He was truly like…He spoke “Jesus”…“and the Word became flesh”…in Jesus of Nazareth, whom God “made both Lord and Christ”…we see what God is really like…and even though He spoke so clearly…we still “fight” over it…we’ve not really changed too much after all I guess from those men who “killed every man woman and child…”…

Just a comment…

This thread actually is inspired by a blog I was reading a while back on this topic.

The author believed the Bible to be inerrant…but…

It was a very nuanced view of inerrancy; one that handled various textual issues of the source documents, issues concerning how the Bible came to be, certain contradictions in the Bible, etc. It was quite well done actually (wish I remember where it was). And yes he did acknowledge that the Bible is not a textbook in science and history.

He also did not hold the belief that the tenet of inerrancy in the areas of science and history should be a test of Christian orthodoxy.

So yes, you can have a very nuanced understanding of inerrancy…yet still believe it is inerrant.

But I really am not here to debate this. I understand that Christians of good will can hold to either the first two options in the poll. I see big problems, however, with option 3 because once you believe that the Bible has theological errors, you are free to make up your own Christianity in your own image according to what you like and don’t like. This I strongly believe is wrong.

Yes, it is the solemn, official, binding teaching of the Catholic Church that the Bible is free from all error (inerrant). Here is the repeated teaching of the Popes:

Pope Leo XIII: “all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Spirit; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the Supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. . . . It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error. . . . [A]ll the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are free from all error . . .” (Providentissimus Deus 20-21).

Pope St. Pius X condemned the modernist proposition that, “Divine inspiration is not to be so extended to the whole of Sacred Scriptures that it renders its parts, all and single, immune from all error.” (Lamentabili Sane 11)

Pope Benedict XV excluded biblical error of any kind in Spiritus Paraclitus 20-21: “we can never conclude that there is any error in Sacred Scripture. . . . Divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, and thus no error can occur in the inspired text.”

Pope Pius XII solemnly reiterated the teaching of Leo XIII, stating: “Finally it is absolutely wrong and forbidden ‘either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred,’ since divine inspiration ‘not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church.’ This teaching, which Our Predecessor Leo XIII set forth with such solemnity, We also proclaim with Our authority and We urge all to adhere to it religiously.” (Divino Afflante Spiritu 3-4)

And in 1950, Pope Pius XII again spoke out in condemnation of attempts to confine biblical inerrancy only to certain parts of sacred Scripture: “For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council’s definition that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.” (Humani Generis 22)

In 1998 Pope John Paul II issued the document Ad Tuendam Fidem which amended Canon Law to include measures to be taken against heretics, those who publicly profess views contrary to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. In its commentary on this document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith layed out three tiers of doctrines and delineated the level of assent which is required for each. The first category of doctrine contains those which are infallibly proposed, which are “defined with a solemn judgment as divinely revealed truths either by the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ‘ex cathedra,’ or by the College of Bishops gathered in council, or infallibly proposed for belief by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” Examples include the Virgin Birth of our Lord, His bodily resurrection from the dead, the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff when speaking ex cathedra, the Immaculate Conception of our Lady, etc. The CDF states that, “These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law.”

One of the truths which belongs to this category is “the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts” . The authority cited for this doctrine is Dei Verbum 11, which is often twisted to mean that the Bible is only inerrant when it touches on matters that are “for the sake of our salvation”, but could be errant in non-salvific matters. This contradicts the teaching of the Popes, as cited above. And this amendation to Canon Law from John Paul II represents an authoritative interpretation of this passage from the Second Vatican Council. According to the CDF, Dei Verbum 11 teaches “the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts,” not (as the revisionists would have it) the absence of error insofar as the text in question is salvific in nature or some other such limiting interpretation. The absence of error in the inspired sacred texts is not limited or modified in any way. To assert the contrary position, that there are errors in the sacred Scriptures, is a heresy, akin to denying the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection.

God bless,

Thank you very much for this answer.

Oh one more thing…

The blog that I was reading also took into accounts different forms of literature in the Bible. So therefore it was possible for him to believe that the Bible was inerrant in science and history while at the same time believe that Genesis 1-2 were employing an allegorical form of literature.

One more thing…

I seem to recall having read a Catholic article that claimed it was possible to believe that the Bible contained errors in history and/or science (but obviously not theology. Are there any Catholics out there that would make that argument. Or is option (1) the only option for the orthodox Catholic.

I wish sometimes I can remember just where it is that I have read all that I remember having read.

You know where we conservative Lutherans stand.


Don’t ask the ELCA though, they’re historical critics. :stuck_out_tongue:

It is my belief and the teaching of the Church that Scripture is entirely inerrant, but is often interpreted wrongly. For example, if there is a supposed contradiction, it is telling a spiritual truth, and not a historical or scientific error. So, while inerrant, it isn’t a history book. I voted 1, because I do not consider these things errors but rather something that is used to convey spiritual truths.

My pleasure.

This correct. When it comes to inerrancy, it’s important to recognize what genre we are reading. So when the Psalmist says that the mountains “skipped like calves”, we do not accuse him of error because we know that mountains do not literally skip like calves. We understand that we are reading poetry. As Pope Pius XII stated in Divino Afflante Spiritu 38:

Hence the Catholic commentator, in order to comply with the present needs of biblical studies, in explaining the Sacred Scripture and in demonstrating and proving its immunity from all error, should also make a prudent use of this means, determine, that is, to what extent the manner of expression or the literary mode adopted by the sacred writer may lead to a correct and genuine interpretation; and let him be convinced that this part of his office cannot be neglected without serious detriment to Catholic exegesis. Not infrequently – to mention only one instance – when some persons reproachfully charge the Sacred Writers with some historical error or inaccuracy in the recording of facts, on closer examination it turns out to be nothing else than those customary modes of expression and narration peculiar to the ancients, which used to be employed in the mutual dealings of social life and which in fact were sanctioned by common usage.

Only option 1 is orthodox. The position you mention is indeed held by certain Catholics–often out of ignorance, because that’s what they were taught in school or in some book or other. But it has been ruled out by the constant teaching of the Popes, as documented above.

God bless,

I notice that most people providing such pope quotes stop before they get to the latest teachings from Dei Verbum:

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation.

Here the church dogmatically declares that the scriptures teach the truth related to salvation without error. Note that the statement does not end after “without error”.

The bible is not a history book - it is full of errors; it is not a biology book - it is full of errors, it is not a book on cosmology - it is full of errors.

Most people, perhaps, but not me ;). Please note that I did not stop before Dei Verbum, I covered that. Please see the last two paragraphs of my lengthy posting above. The authoritative interpretation of that passage (which has been widely misunderstood) from the Pope and the CDF excludes your interpretation, which flatly contradicts the repeated, solemn teaching of the Popes that there is no error whatsoever in sacred Scripture. They state again and again that one cannot divide the sacred Scriptures into certain material which is inerrant and other material which is not. Those who disagree need to explain how their interpretation of Dei Verbum 11 can be harmonized with the teaching of the Popes (and please note that two of those passages I cited above were actually included in the official footnotes to Dei Verbum 11, so there can be no doubt that the council text is to be read in harmony with those prior papal teachings.)

A more full discussion of the correct interpretation of Dei Verbum 11, which sees it in harmony with the Church’s perennial teaching rather than in contradiction to it, may be found here:


God bless,

Thank you for giving the other side.

Oh…what exactly are the errors that the Bible is full of?

One of the major problems in our world today is fundamentalism.

Among certain Muslims, the Quran is error-free, and some of them find cause in their scriptures to join Islamic fanatics who become terrorists or their sympathizers.

Among certain Jews, the Hebrew scriptures are error-free, and as a result they (plus many Christians) justify seizing more and more Palestinian territory because God is in the business of real estate and gave a 'Chosen People' them the entire Holy Land. This view, backed up in effect by USA money, military and diplomacy, was the initial reason why hatred for the USA among Muslims developed, leading eventually to 9-11 and the mess we're in today.

 Among fundamentalist Protestants and, apparently, orthodox Catholics, the entire Bible is error-free. This has led to all sorts of fanaticism and injustices over the centuries. The Inquisition, for example. I recall reading in St. Thomas Aquinas that heretics should be turned over to the civil government to be executed. He found scriptural support for that outrage. What about the numerous women (and some men) put to death, especially in Europe but even in Salem, because they were 'witches' and the Bible says that witches should be killed. 

 When will the spirit of Christ supercede all manner of crazy and narrow views which fundamentalists derive from scripture? Re-read Ex. 21, Lev. 20, and Deut. 22-23 - for example - and honestly decide how many of those legalisms you think were actually dictated by the Holy Spirit? And do you worship a God who would command the extermination of whole civilian populations as at Jericho, Ai, and among the Amalekites? Can you imagine Jesus approving as the ancient Israelites shouted out in praise: "Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his ten thousands?"

  Frankly, if you think God ordered such atrocities you and I must believe in different gods. What about "thou shalt not kill" and the Sermon on the Mount? What about that letler of I John, especially verses 20-21? Where is "God is love" and "the mercy of the Lord" if he initiated such crimes against innocent civilian human beings? If I thought Christianity excused such acts of terror I would have to change my religion! But I believe in the true Word of God, exemplified by Christ, and reject nationalistic excuses for mass murder.

  God bless every creed, color and country, and may religion become a bridge and not a barrier among us.


Thank you for expressing a minority opinion.


Obviously you believe the Bible to have scientific and historical errors. Do you believe it to have theological errors as well?


I'm not too smart, either. I wonder if we're related.

Now, as for **theology and the Bible**. Obviously a whole lot of theologies have claimed to reflect the Bible. "Even the devil can quote scripture." I have considerable sympathy for Quakerism, which in its pure form embraces pacifism, which it finds in the Bible - Sermon on the Mount. Catholics and other cling to "just war" theories. 

 Then there are the predestinarians vs the free-will Arminians. Both of them quote the Bible, too. "Even the hairs on the you head are numbered" versus admonitions to do good - perhaps pointless if our eternal fate already has been decided by the Almighty.

 Or, take such Catholic/Protestant issues as Mary. Catholics point to this or that verse, while Protestants note, among many other things, that in all the letters of Paul,  sent to instruct early Christians, Mary isn't mentioned once. Where do we find evidence of the Immaculate Conception (not to be confused with the Virgin Birth) and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in scripture? Catholics, of course, appeal to non-Biblical tradition. We don't even find the name of Mary's mother in scripture. 

  And we could go on and on. All those early heresies, whether Arianism or Nestorianism, Adoptianism or Monarchianism, quoted scriptures, as did such 'heretical' Church Fathers as Tertullian and Origen who cited scripture to buttress their arguments.

  Take Baptism. Infant by sprrinkling or 'believers baptism' by immersion only. Jesus was baptized following the second procedure, but most Christians accept infant baptism.

  Personally, I don't take much stock in theology, and I have read a good many theologians, too. They are interesting and often creative, but we are not saved by belief but by God's grace. And - I know many Protestants don't like to hear this - by 'good works' which play a role (not pious 'good works' like indulgences gained by repeating  prayers but by deeds reflecting love of others). Remember when the lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life? Jesus had a great opportunity to lay out required belief. Instead, he said love God and love you neighbor, then illustrated it with the parable of the Good Samaritan in which a despised Samaritan, of a different religion and of strictly taboo intermarried ancestry, emerges as the hero!

  The churches, Catholic and Protestant and others, need to stop being so arrogant and open their doors wide  ('big tent Christianity') and welcome all who would come. The notion that there is only one true religion is poppycock. This mammoth and magnificant universe is too mysterious for any of us to understand. "Farther along we'll know all about it...." - a favorite gospel hymn of mine. I Corinthians says the same things basically. "Now we see through a glass darkly...."

  God bless the whole world - no exceptions.
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