There is a hermeneutic that Christians use, that I think has no merit.

NASB, 2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

You often hear pastors say "but we cannot use just one verse, we have to go to the whole counsel of God."

You might hear a fundamentalist say "no, that interpretation cannot be correct, because that would contradict what the bible says elsewhere".

The general thinking behind these sentiments is: If your interpretation of a bible passage causes the passage to conflict with something else in the bible, or otherwise causes the bible to espouse error, then it is clear that your interpretation is wrong."

In other words, fundamentalist Christians think bible inerrancy should be used as a hermeneutic (i.e., whether your interpretation causes the bible to contradict itself or contain error, decides whether it is possible for it to be correct.)

What do you think? Is it true that the only interpretations of a bible passage that have any logical possibility of being correct, are those that can be harmonized with everything else in the bible?

  • Since when has the word "bible" not needed to be capitalized? Has someone changed the rule and not told me about it? Don Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 0:56
  • I'm having a hard time seeing how this approach to the question is anything but "opinion based", and have voted to close the question accordingly.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 7:47
  • I also think question is trying to provoke ans solicit opinion-based answers. However, I think there is a legitimate question along the lines of, "Does Scripture actually assert its own inerrancy, perhaps explicitly as the Book of Mormon does?" I am positive this question was asked before, and I am pretty sure I am the one that asked it, but I cannot find it anywhere. If I could have found it, I would have marked this as a duplicate. Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 23:01

2 Answers 2


1. Question Restatement:

Should the doctrine of bible inerrancy be used as a tool of interpretation?

Internet Search: Bible Descriptive vs Prescriptive

2. Objection, Begging the Question:

I really feel the validity of these questions are undermined when they are based off of bad presuppositions. Normally, it isn't possible to reasonably frame a response - if a question irrationally presupposes fabricated misrepresentations.

Specifically, this question presupposes that all theists believe that Scripture is a representation of what God approves of - this is very far from the truth.

So, it would help if the questions were framed to be "rationally valid".

3. I think this conclusively answers the question for just about anyone:

Granted: This raises a LOT more questions.

NASB, Ezekiel 20:22-26 - But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. 23 Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them among the lands, 24 because they had not observed My ordinances, but had rejected My statutes and had profaned My sabbaths, and their eyes were on the idols of their fathers. 25 I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live; 26 and I pronounced them unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the Lord.”’

Instead of asking, "is the Bible inerrant?" - perhaps better questions would be of the form - "What actions and commandments did God actually desire, tolerate, approve of, or reject?"

A More Important Question: "Is it 'just' to have a prisoner do unlawful things?"

In other questions, it seems there is a dance around the fact that Scripture, repeatedly, incessantly, states that God punished Israel, and placed them under a curse - because of the evil they did, continued to do, and determined to keep doing.

It is hard not to point out just how severe that curse was, (like the rape of their wives).

So, "What was it that Israel actually did??? How did they merit that kind of curse?" And, does the appropriateness of that punishment speak to the "inerrancy", "inspiration", or "wisdom", of Scripture?

No one - at all - is suggesting that all of what happened in Scripture is remotely "Moral", and that Israel's actions and laws should be imitated.

However, what theists DO argue, is:

NASB, 2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

  • 2
    A very good explanation of prescriptive vs. descriptive interpretations. Just because the Bible describes something happening does not mean the Bible prescribes it happening.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 22:48
  • 1
    @FrankLuke - I stole your "prescriptive and descriptive" line, and put it in my answer... without asking, because I am jealous of you making things so much clearer than I can. Thanks! :D Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 22:57
  • That's what I get for going to seminary.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jun 24, 2017 at 3:15

The doctrine of bible inerrancy has always been a source of hot dispute within Christanity. Conservative Christian scholars cannot agree on whether it is true, or if it is, what it's nature and scope is.

Contrawise, tools of interpretation such as "grammar" and "immediate context" are agreed by all scholars to be valid areas to pursue when attempting to correctly interpret something in the bible.

It is my view that bible inerrancy has nowhere near the universal acclaim that other proposed rules of interpretation have, such as grammar and context. Therefore, liberal Christians and non-Christians have full rational warrant to dismiss bible inerrancy as a possible hermeneutic.

If this is reasonable, then the fact that a Christian can truthfully say "your interpretation contradicts other parts of the bible!" or "your interpretation would require that the bible author made a mistake!" will not be sufficient, without more, to intellectually obligate the interpreter to think her understanding of the passage was false.

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