Amended for clarity

Two passages from Paul that are often used together:

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:2)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God... (2 Timothy 3:16)

The latter passage is also often rendered that scripture is "God-breathed".


3 questions:

  1. Does the combination of these two passages indicate that scripture is without error?

  2. If yes, in what sense is it without error? (Doctrinally, scientifically, historically, grammatically, other? Is it all or nothing?)

  3. What γραφή/scripture/writing is in scope for your answer to the first 2 questions?

Related questions that may be of interest discussing the usage of the word γραφή are found here and here.

  • This is a real Pandora's box indeed!!
    – Dottard
    Mar 23 at 9:35
  • Are you asking if "All Scripture" refers to : copies & translations of God's inspired Word? Example - If you copy the Teacher's notes, and misspell a word.. Does that mean the Teacher misspelled it? Mar 23 at 17:08
  • Hi @חִידָה I tried not to over-specify the question, but I added a clarifying question at the end. "If so, which γραφή/scripture/writing?" To your point, the answer would make little sense if we were using different meanings of γραφή. If somebody wants to take γραφή to mean one thing, and provides an answer different from somebody who take γραφή to mean something else, both answers would be interesting. Mar 23 at 17:26

The answer requires multi-level considerations. The meaning of "inerrant" is free from error.

First, is all scripture speaking truth? That answer is No, as we must determine who the speaker of record is. When the adversary speaks, he is speaking a lie (John 8:44). He lied to Eve in Gen. 3:4 by adding the word "not" to God's commandment. Abraham shaded the truth when he told others that Sara was his sister, without also disclosing that she was his wife (Gen. 12:10-12).

So, if the speaker is other than our Creator, then we have to know that they may not be telling the truth. Men and women will lie. The adversary lies continually, and we must have that in mind whenever we read the words spoken by the adversary.

If God is speaking it is absolute truth.

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17, KJV)

"For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth." (Psa. 33:4, KJV)

Second, is the record of the events inerrant? Yes, if it is from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The Holy Spirit accurately recorded the events even if it portrayed the individual person in a bad light. The Holy Spirit did not and does not pull punches.

Third, we must recognize that the translations into the other languages may have added some bias from the beliefs of the translators. That is why we must compare the different translations against each other, and back to the original texts to weed out any bias and preconceived ideas. That is why there are commentaries, dictionaries, lexicons, etc. to help students of the Bible research and understand the original texts.

For instance, Heb. 9:27 in the KJV is translated as -

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"

But, it is better translated in Young's Literal as -

"and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this -- judgment,"

The definite article "the" in the KJV translation is not in the original Greek, and it lends itself to a belief in one day of judgment all at one time, when actually the original text shows that every person is judged after their bodily death. This has been the process since the beginning as is depicted in the picture of Hades that the Holy Spirit gave us in Luke 16:22-23.

Lazarus was in Abraham's bosom after his death, while the rich man was consigned to the place of torment in the grave. How was that accomplished if they had not been subject to their judgment at their death?

So, essentially, Yes, YHWH's word is truth, and the record of the events given in the scriptures by the Holy Spirit is inerrant. But, we must discriminate between speakers within the word, and between translations from the original texts.

  • 1
    You wandered from the subject in order to convey an opinion about the Last Judgment which was not the question.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 23 at 6:18
  • 1
    I disagree. I did not wander from the topic. I used an example to make the point about errors in translations, and it is an egregious one. I could have used the example about transliterating the Gr. "baptisma" instead of translating it as "immersion" as another error in many translations if that would work better for you.
    – Gina
    Mar 23 at 11:01
  • That would be just as bad, I am afraid.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 23 at 12:34
  • @Gina - You offer an excellent Conclusion : "That is why we must compare the different translations against each other, and back to the original texts". Mar 23 at 17:39
  • 1
    @Curious - sorry, no it was a finger slip...
    – Gina
    Mar 23 at 17:54

Apart from the nature of Christ, there are few matters as divisive among Christians as the doctrine of Inspiration of the Bible. The questions that arise from the doctrine of inspiration: (1) How does divine inspiration work? And, (2) What is inspired? (I will not address the second question here).

How Does Inspiration Work?

Traditionally, there have been three broad views about how the Bible writers were inspired:

  1. Verbal Inspiration: The Holy Spirit dictated the Bible, word for word.
  2. Thought Inspiration: The Holy Spirit inspired men’s ideas; prophets then expressed these ideas in their own words.
  3. The Bible contains the Word of God, that is, it records the experiences of great and Godly men and so has other material not necessarily inspired. That is, in the judgement of those who subscribe to this view, some parts of the Bible are not worthy of the sacred canon. This might be called “non-plenary”, “incomplete”, or “partial” inspiration. We will ignore the third view as an example of “Cafeteria Theology” where one is free to decide what parts of the Bible to believe and what can be ignored. Let us assume immediately that the entire Bible, as we have it, is inspired, as declared in 2 Tim 3:16, 17, 2 Peter 1:19-21. See also 2 Sam 23:2, Neh 9:30, Eze 2:2, 11:5, 24, Micah 3:8, Zech 7:12, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Rom 1:2, 3:2, Heb 3:7, 5:12, 9:8, Mark 12:36, Acts 28:25, 1 Tim 4:1.

The central question here is what does, “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16, 17) or “inspired” mean? That is, Did God inspire men or words? Or, Did the Holy Spirit prompt ideas or dictate?

To answer this central question of inspiration we observe the following:

(A) The mechanism of inspiration in the Bible was quite varied.

  • Some writers saw visions and then recorded the vision (Dan 8:1, 2, 10:1-3, Revelation (numerous times), etc.)
  • The prophet is awake and talking directly with a messenger (Zech 4:1, 2)
  • Luke researched events and interviewed witnesses before compiling his Gospel and Acts
  • Some passages are direct quotes from non-inspired sources (see table below) that the Bible writer used.
  • Balaam was possessed and unable to curse Israel (Num 23, 24)
  • Some passages are clearly direct quotes from God (eg, the 10 commandments in Ex 20:1-17, 31:18, Deut 10:4, 5)
  • Moses even used another person (Aaron) to deliver his messages (Ex 7:1, compare Ex 4:15, 16)
  • A dictation model of inspiration would have all four Gospels recording the same event in exactly the same language; but significant variations are obvious.

(B) The language of the Bible is quite varied and depends on the background of prophet.

  • John wrote very simply (at times, stretching Greek grammar); Paul and Luke used quite complex Greek constructions with a large vocabulary; Matthew’s Gospel is very Hebraistic is style; Peter’s two epistles are quite different in style because he used different translator-secretaries to record them (Silas in the first instance, 1 Peter 5:12). If the Holy Spirit had dictated the Bible, its style would be uniform.
  • Paul says that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor 14:32) indicating that the prophet does not lose his/her personality in the process.

Lastly, if God had dictated the words of the Bible intending that they would be immutable and important, then God would have miraculously preserved the exact words as inspired and “dictated”. Even a casual glace at the history of the Bible text suggests that this was never the case – there are thousands of variations in the Bible text, but all preserve the ideas in the text. That is, while many “errors” and variations exist in the Bible text between manuscripts, none are significant for the message.

Thus, the Bible, God’s Word and its central message of God’s love and salvation, has been miraculously preserved but not necessarily the exact words that the Bible writers used. (It is possible that some Bible writers produced more than one version or revision themselves!)

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