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Rob Bowman

Inerrancy of Scripture and 2 Timothy 3:16-17

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Maklelan, In this thread, I would like to discuss the issue of 2 Timothy 3:16 and its relevance to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. I will refer to some statements that you made in the thread you started

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Maklelan, In this thread, I would like to discuss the issue of 2 Timothy 3:16 and its relevance to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. I will refer to some statements that you made in the thread you started

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The doctrine of inerrancy simply affirms that whatever has the status of Scripture is inerrant. If a particular book is Scripture, then that book is inerrant. We disagree on the precise extent of the body of writings that have the status of Scripture. For example, you think the Book of Mormon is Scripture and I do not. The doctrine of inerrancy does not weigh in on this question. What it says, though, is that whatever is Scripture will be inerrant.

But this means that there is no inerrant way to identify scripture. More problematic is the fact that there is no way to know if 2 Tim 3:16 is true or not. You have to presuppose that 2 Timothy is scripture and then presuppose that the modern canon is accepted by scripture (and is thus inerrantly identified as scripture). Until you can find a way to show that 2 Tim 3:16 was written as scripture, and that the scriptures identify which texts are scriptures, your entire doctrine of inerrancy rests on presumption.

Thus, whatever writings we do agree are to be classified as Scripture, we ought to recognize those texts as inerrant.

So now a consensus grants inerrant status to each text? How can we be sure this consensus is inerrant? Must we again just presuppose it to be so?

This is the evangelical view; I realize of course that Mormons do not view any scripture as inerrant.

I contend that this view is methodologically indefensible.

This is my answer to the objection that I hear constantly that

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Further, any implications of that description would naturally apply to Scripture whether it was written or recognized as Scripture before or after 2 Timothy.

You assert that the author of 2 Timothy

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maklelan,

Regarding the concept of the inerrancy of Scripture, you wrote:

On my admission, I admit it goes back to late antiquity, although I have no doubt the notion there is quite distinct from the modern concept. I backed off the argument because I saw no value in forging down a long and winding argumentative road of nuance and shades of gray.

If by "late antiquity" you mean the second century AD (as Irenaeus, a late second century author, was one of my examples), then the gap between the NT era and the period when you admit the concept existed has been narrowed considerably from when you asserted it was of modern origin. Where did Irenaeus or other Christian writers of late antiquity, such as Augustine, get such a concept? Surely not from non-Christian Hellenistic thought, nor from any other source outside the Jewish and Christian religious traditions. We know that Jews held to a similar belief regarding the Jewish Bible in the early centuries AD; admittedly much of our literary evidence for this belief comes in the Mishnah and later sources, but these at the very least also show that something like inerrancy was held in rabbinical Judaism in the centuries immediately following the close of the NT era. Thus, we have evidence that both Jews and Christians, by the second century or so, held to similar doctrines of the nature of Scripture, while of course disagreeing with each other as to the Scriptural status of the books eventually canonized in a formal sense as the New Testament. Again, I ask, where did they derive this concept?

Both Jews and Christians in "late antiquity" affirmed the inerrancy of their Scriptures. Both held that their doctrines were faithfully in continuity with the traditions they had received (the rabbis from their Jewish predecessors, the Christians from the apostles and those who knew them). I think they were right.

It is fair to say that the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy is more developed and nuanced than the doctrine as articulated by the likes of Augustine. That is as we should expect, and I don't see any need for an apology or defense of such development.

You wrote:

I was still waiting for you to respond to several other points that I considered germane to my entire thread, as well. You never did respond to them.

Well, there is only so much of me to go around. I am attempting with this thread to begin a discussion in which at least some of those other points can be addressed, with a minimum of distractions. But it will take me some time.

You wrote:

Perhaps because every inerrantist conceives of inerrancy differently. Fundamentally, however, all attempts to assert inerrancy fail. I am using the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy because it

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I rather like the Petrine view of Saul/Paul's letters:

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

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maklelan,

Regarding the concept of the inerrancy of Scripture, you wrote:

If by "late antiquity" you mean the second century AD (as Irenaeus, a late second century author, was one of my examples), then the gap between the NT era and the period when you admit the concept existed has been narrowed considerably from when you asserted it was of modern origin.

I'm willing to allow that for the sake of argument. I would point out that the second century CE is the period when Christianity appropriated a Greek philosophical worldview in its effort to become popularized among the Greco-Roman intelligencia. This period saw the development of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, an anti-anthropomorphic view of deity, the beginnings of the notion of the Trinity, the standardization of the proto-Masoretic tradition, and a number of other ideologies. I'm willing to allow for the sake of argument the development of a species of inerrancy in this climate, although I intend to look more deeply into those early statements, since they don't communicate the same kind of inerrancy you espouse. For instance, Augustine says that the scriptures are wholly free from error, but he also denies that we are looking for the author's intended meaning. Rather, we are looking for a spiritual truth that we know lurks somewhere in the text, and that could be anything we decide it is. He says, "So when one person says, 'He meant what I say,' and another says 'No, he meant what I say,' I think it would be more pious to say, 'Why not both, if both are true?' And if someone should see in his words a third truth, or a fourth, or indeed any other truth, why not believe that Moses saw all these truths?" (Conf. 12.31.42) In the same section he explains that the original author may not have been privy to those truths, but that our "inner teacher" can reveal them to us. This flatly contradicts the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, which searches not for mystical truths we read into the text (he says we must look for caritas, and we will find it), but for the single historical-grammatical meaning (about which Irenaeus and Augustine couldn't care less):

Article VII - WE AFFIRM that the meaning expressed in each biblical text is single, definite and fixed.
Article XVIII - WE AFFIRM that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

For these reasons, I cannot accept that the earliest notions of some species of inerrancy are the same as or even similar to the modern notions. This is the road I didn't want to travel down, primarily because it provides an opportunity to avoid my important points and spend a lot of time arguing about something that isn't really germane to my contention.

Where did Irenaeus or other Christian writers of late antiquity, such as Augustine, get such a concept? Surely not from non-Christian Hellenistic thought, nor from any other source outside the Jewish and Christian religious traditions.

How do you figure?

We know that Jews held to a similar belief regarding the Jewish Bible in the early centuries AD; admittedly much of our literary evidence for this belief comes in the Mishnah and later sources, but these at the very least also show that something like inerrancy was held in rabbinical Judaism in the centuries immediately following the close of the NT era.

Can you provide any sources for this conclusion, because all I see in rabbinic literature is the assertion of authority, as I pointed out with the use of the Ketiv/Qere readings.

Thus, we have evidence that both Jews and Christians, by the second century or so, held to similar doctrines of the nature of Scripture, while of course disagreeing with each other as to the Scriptural status of the books eventually canonized in a formal sense as the New Testament. Again, I ask, where did they derive this concept?

It derived from the text's authority, from the standardization of the proto-Masoretic tradition, and from an essentially docetic view of scripture. The human side of scripture is precluded by the doctrine of inerrancy. God's perfection overrules the definitive aspect of humanity, creating only the illusion of human influence. Inerrancy demands a docetic view of Christ, too. After all, if we are to believe that Christ was never wrong about anything at all then we have to believe that he never once mispronounced an Aramaic word while he was a toddler, never believed a word his parents uttered that was untrue (flat earth, nature of the sun and stars, etc.), and didn't "grow in wisdom," as Luke 2:52 says he did (the notion of inerrancy as expressed in Article XV of the Chicago Statement demands that Luke 2:52 be incorrect, which is rather paradoxical). Basically, Christ was not allowed to be human, and his humanity is thus an illusion.

Both Jews and Christians in "late antiquity" affirmed the inerrancy of their Scriptures. Both held that their doctrines were faithfully in continuity with the traditions they had received (the rabbis from their Jewish predecessors, the Christians from the apostles and those who knew them). I think they were right.

Where do you see both of these groups asserting their view of inerrancy was contiguous with the traditions they received?

It is fair to say that the evangelical doctrine of biblical inerrancy is more developed and nuanced than the doctrine as articulated by the likes of Augustine. That is as we should expect, and I don't see any need for an apology or defense of such development.

What about when their view flatly contradicts yours? That's not developed and nuanced, that's just completely different.

You wrote:

Well, there is only so much of me to go around. I am attempting with this thread to begin a discussion in which at least some of those other points can be addressed, with a minimum of distractions. But it will take me some time.

This thread began after I repeatedly asked for responses to the texts I brought up. I'd like to see a response to those specific scriptures before I participate any further. I've responded to every single point you've brought up in the exact order they were all brought up. I am asking you to show me the same courtesy. If you're unwilling or unable to respond to those scriptures, then the debate is over.

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maklelan,

You wrote:

For these reasons, I cannot accept that the earliest notions of some species of inerrancy are the same as or even similar to the modern notions. This is the road I didn't want to travel down, primarily because it provides an opportunity to avoid my important points and spend a lot of time arguing about something that isn't really germane to my contention.

Do we not need to agree on what inerrancy means in order for us to discuss whether it is true or not?

You raised other points I would dearly like to address, but I think I should go immediately to your final paragraph:

This thread began after I repeatedly asked for responses to the texts I brought up. I'd like to see a response to those specific scriptures before I participate any further. I've responded to every single point you've brought up in the exact order they were all brought up. I am asking you to show me the same courtesy. If you're unwilling or unable to respond to those scriptures, then the debate is over.

You brought up several texts: 2 Timothy 3:16 (regarding which I started this thread), 1 Kings 22, Ezekiel 20:25-26 (which you cross-referenced with Exodus 22:29), Matthew 5:18-19, Mark 7:25-30 (par. Matt. 15:21-28), and perhaps others. I started with the first of these with the intention of discussing the others as well. Are you impatient for me to get to a particular text? If so, tell me which one, and we'll discuss it.

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USU78,

I like the Petrine view of Paul's letters, too. Peter viewed them as Scripture. According to Peter, even though there are some things in Paul's letters hard to understand, this does not excuse those who mine them for false doctrine. Those who do so are twisting Paul, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures. They are unstable and uneducated in the truths of Scripture, and distort the teachings of Scripture to their own destruction.

I rather like the Petrine view of Saul/Paul's letters.

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I like the Petrine view of Paul's letters, too. Peter viewed them as Scripture. According to Peter, even though there are some things in Paul's letters hard to understand, this does not excuse those who mine them for false doctrine. Those who do so are twisting Paul, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures. They are unstable and uneducated in the truths of Scripture, and distort the teachings of Scripture to their own destruction.

But calling something scripture doesn't necessarily mean it's inerrant. That's quite a different question, as Mak pointed out above.

Besides . . . the very circularity of the argument [Paul sez it's G-d-breathed; therefore, it's inerrant; and why is it inerrant?; because it's G-d-breathed; and why is it G-d-breathed?; because Saul/Paul sez so] makes it unpersuasive. We don't need to reach the question of whether this particular alleged Saul/Paul letter was amongst the writings the author of the Petrine corpus was referring to. What Saul/Paul allegedly claimed for "scripture" wasn't inerrancy, but rather usefulness because of its G-d-breathed-ness.

Can something not be both G-d-breathed and useful without being inerrant?

USU "Is not aware where it is set down in stone that any scripture has to be inerrant" 78

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USU78,

Perhaps you wouldn't mind clarifying what point you were making in citing 2 Peter 3:16 in the first place.

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maklelan,

You wrote:

Do we not need to agree on what inerrancy means in order for us to discuss whether it is true or not?

I honestly don't think we're going to arrive at an agreement on that. I can't imagine finding any statement of inerrancy to be logical. If you adhere to any particular statement of inerrancy or have one of your own, let me know, and we can use that as a jumping off point.

You raised other points I would dearly like to address, but I think I should go immediately to your final paragraph:

You brought up several texts: 2 Timothy 3:16 (regarding which I started this thread), 1 Kings 22, Ezekiel 20:25-26 (which you cross-referenced with Exodus 22:29), Matthew 5:18-19, Mark 7:25-30 (par. Matt. 15:21-28), and perhaps others. I started with the first of these with the intention of discussing the others as well. Are you impatient for me to get to a particular text? If so, tell me which one, and we'll discuss it.

The particular pericopes I've been asking for a response to are (1) Acts 15's use of LXX Amos 9, (2) the three conflicting accounts of Sennacherib's invasion in 2 Kgs 18:13-16; 18:17-19:9a, 36-37; and 19:9b-35, (3) God claiming Exod 22:29 was a bad commandment designed to mislead in Ezek 20:25-26, (4) God sending a lie to Ahab in 1 Kgs 22:19-23, and (5) the conflicting accounts of who killed Goliath in 1 Sam 17 and 2 Sam 21:19 // 1 Chr 20:5. Feel free to pick whichever you're best prepared to discuss (and thanks for your patience with me).

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maklelan,

I asked if we don't need to agree on what inerrancy means in order to discuss if it's true. You replied:

I honestly don't think we're going to arrive at an agreement on that. I can't imagine finding any statement of inerrancy to be logical. If you adhere to any particular statement of inerrancy or have one of your own, let me know, and we can use that as a jumping off point.

Hmmm. This is a real problem. It's possible to view someone's position as illogical and still agree as to what that view is. Look at this from my perspective: it sounds like you're keeping yourself free to attack the doctrine no matter what defense is offered.

I've already told you that I adhere to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. You haven't explained why you think it is illogical. You have given examples of texts that you think are incompatible with inerrancy, but that isn't the same thing as saying that the doctrine cannot even be defined because it is illogical.

You wrote:

The particular pericopes I've been asking for a response to are (1) Acts 15's use of LXX Amos 9, (2) the three conflicting accounts of Sennacherib's invasion in 2 Kgs 18:13-16; 18:17-19:9a, 36-37; and 19:9b-35, (3) God claiming Exod 22:29 was a bad commandment designed to mislead in Ezek 20:25-26, (4) God sending a lie to Ahab in 1 Kgs 22:19-23, and (5) the conflicting accounts of who killed Goliath in 1 Sam 17 and 2 Sam 21:19 // 1 Chr 20:5. Feel free to pick whichever you're best prepared to discuss (and thanks for your patience with me).

I've been working on responses to all of these. However, I don't see the point if we cannot even agree as to what it would mean for these texts to be inerrant.

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maklelan,

I asked if we don't need to agree on what inerrancy means in order to discuss if it's true. You replied:

Hmmm. This is a real problem. It's possible to view someone's position as illogical and still agree as to what that view is. Look at this from my perspective: it sounds like you're keeping yourself free to attack the doctrine no matter what defense is offered.

I think there's been a miscommunication. I'm saying we don't need to haggle over a definition because we're not going to arrive at an agreement. Rather, you can tell me what your definition is and we can move on from there. That doesn't require any back-and-forth. If you fully subscribe to the Chicago Statement then we can use that as the foundation. If there's another document, we can use that. If you'd like to add caveats to any of the statements, we can do that. I just don't think we need to hammer anything out, since I don't think we're going to agree on a view of inerrancy that we both espouse.

I've already told you that I adhere to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. You haven't explained why you think it is illogical. You have given examples of texts that you think are incompatible with inerrancy, but that isn't the same thing as saying that the doctrine cannot even be defined because it is illogical.

Then we can use the Chicago Statement. Do you want to add any qualifications or details, or should we use the statement as is?

You wrote:

I've been working on responses to all of these. However, I don't see the point if we cannot even agree as to what it would mean for these texts to be inerrant.

We don't need to agree on what it would mean. You only need to have your position to support and I will have mine. I can hardly tell you that I refuse to participate because I don't think you have the right position for me to argue against. There's no need for me to sign off on your position, especially since I'm arguing against it. You've stated you espouse the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. I'm perfectly happy agreeing with you that you support it. We can see if the document applies once you've expounded on one or all the texts I listed. Do you have any further objection?

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maklelan,

Suppose I clear up at least some of these problems, if not all of them. Will that do it for you? Will you then be ready to accept the inerrancy of the Bible? If not (and I'm betting not), what would be the point, from your perspective, of my addressing these problems?

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Perhaps you wouldn't mind clarifying what point you were making in citing 2 Peter 3:16 in the first place.

Two reasons that are relevant to this thread. My major points were:

1. There's no reason to hold that the Pauline corpus should be considered non-scripture, unless we want to throw out the Petrine corpus as well. Whoever authored the corpora, they agree far more than they disagree.

2. The author of 2 Peter affirms that the Saul/Paul stuff can get folks in trouble, which affirms the notion that scripture, while being G-d-breathed, may still be problematic because of the human element in its generation.

What did you think the point was?

USU "Thanks, Mak! If I'm going to be pretentious, I'd best get it right." 78

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maklelan,

Suppose I clear up at least some of these problems, if not all of them. Will that do it for you? Will you then be ready to accept the inerrancy of the Bible? If not (and I'm betting not), what would be the point, from your perspective, of my addressing these problems?

I would like to see how you think these problems can be cleared up, but don't be surprised if I have concerns.

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Two reasons that are relevant to this thread. My major points were:

1. There's no reason to hold that the Pauline corpus should be considered non-scripture, unless we want to throw out the Petrine corpus as well. Whoever authored the corpi, they agree far more than they disagree.

Brief note exclusively for your information: the plural of corpus is corpora.

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maklelan,

You didn't answer my question. I think you didn't get it, so I will rephrase. Suppose I clear up these problems to your satisfaction, so that we can cross them off your list of problems for inerrancy. What will we have gained?

I would like to see how you think these problems can be cleared up, but don't be surprised if I have concerns.

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USU78,

After reading your first response to me, I had no idea what your original point was, which was why I asked. Regarding your numbered points:

1. I certainly don't hold that the Pauline writings should be considered non-scripture, so I'm glad to see we agree on this point.

2. The author of 2 Peter does not affirm that Paul's writings can get folks into trouble. He affirms that untaught and unstable people can get themselves into trouble with Paul's writings. Peter does not say or suggest that there is anything problematic in Paul's writings, nor does he find anything amiss with their generation. It wasn't the generation of Paul's epistles that was the problem, but the interpretation of Paul's epistles by the untaught and unstable false teachers.

Two reasons that are relevant to this thread. My major points were:

1. There's no reason to hold that the Pauline corpus should be considered non-scripture, unless we want to throw out the Petrine corpus as well. Whoever authored the corpora, they agree far more than they disagree.

2. The author of 2 Peter affirms that the Saul/Paul stuff can get folks in trouble, which affirms the notion that scripture, while being G-d-breathed, may still be problematic because of the human element in its generation.

What did you think the point was?

USU "Thanks, Mak! If I'm going to be pretentious, I'd best get it right." 78

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maklelan,

You didn't answer my question. I think you didn't get it, so I will rephrase. Suppose I clear up these problems to your satisfaction, so that we can cross them off your list of problems for inerrancy. What will we have gained?

You will have shown me that an inerrant view of scripture is defensible against modern biblical criticism. At this point I don't believe it is. I would be happy to reconsider inerrancy's merits if you could do that.

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maklelan,

Okay. It will more than likely take me a week or so, given the other things I have to do.

You will have shown me that an inerrant view of scripture is defensible against modern biblical criticism. At this point I don't believe it is. I would be happy to reconsider inerrancy's merits if you could do that.

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