All the words of the Bible have been given to us from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and are free of any error, which is where we get the doctrine of inerrancy. So it follows that to disobey or disbelieve any its contents would be the same thing as disobeying or disbelieving God himself. But the Bible clearly states that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 2 Samuel 7:28; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), and since the Bible contains the words of God, we can know that whatever the Bible says is true. In fact John 17:17 says that God’s words are the ultimate standard for truth.
When we speak of the inerrancy of scripture, what we mean is that the scriptures, in their original manuscripts do not contain anything that is contrary to fact. To simplify even more, the Bible always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. Even though the Bible was physically written by the hands of men, whom are completely capable of producing errors and falsehoods, it is by the inerrant and true characteristic of God’s speech that even though it’s spoken through men, is never false and never affirms error.
This all being said, we should look a little closer into the claim and explain the statements that follow:
Inerrancy Allows The Use of Ordinary Language
This statement is primarily for the scientific or historical minded individuals who like to scrutinize and criticize every statement in the Bible. For instance, some take issue when the Bible uses approximations like in Numbers 25:9 where it says that “those who died by the plague were 24,000.” Now what if somehow we were able to discover the actual number of people who died from the plague was really 23,993? Would that mean that the Bible contains errors? No, it wouldn’t. Surely if 24,000 people died and the actual number of cited was 50,000, we would have a problem; but in most contexts it would not be wrong for a reporter to say for example that 3,000 people died during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, even though the more precise number is 2,976. The truthfulness of the statement would depend on the dregree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.
We can also say the same thing about measurements, vague statements, and comments that are relative to the speaker throughout the Bible.
Inerrancy Allows The Use of Loose / Free Quotations
In our American and British culture we are quite used to quoting a person’s exact words by placing their statement within quotation marks. This is called a direct quotation. But with indirect quotation, we only expect to receive an accurate report of a substance or statement. Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks, so any citation of another person only needed to include an accurate and correct representation of the cited person’s statement. They were not expected to give a word for word record of what they had said. Thus, the loose or free quotations within the Bible do not affect the inerrancy of the Bible so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated.
Inerrancy Allows Unusual / Uncommon Grammatical Constructions
The Bible contains the writings of people from various backgrounds and upbringings. From shepherds and fishermen to doctors and intellects. What this results in is an assortment of writing styles throughout the scriptures. In places like Ecclesiastes we see elegant and stylish writing while in books like Revelations we see rough and poorly written language. There are even times when the authors fail to abide by commonly held grammatical ‘;rules’ of expression of their time. But it is important to note that though a statement is ungrammatical, it is not therefore untrue. A child can tell me, “house cold!” or “evil are mondays!”, and even though poor grammar was used, the statements can still be inerrant.
Some people make the claim that there are a number of errors or contradictions in the Bible which render it false. Many of these critics fail to understand that scholars have been reading and studying the Bible for over 2000 years, and though there are some passages that are hard to grasp or make sense of, they have concluded that there is no reason to deny the inerrancy of scripture. Personally I have seen a lot of questions from people of opposing faiths regarding the Bible, and can honestly say that I’ve had very little struggle in responding to their inquiries. The Bible - unlike the books of other religions - welcomes questions and investigation, because it can and does stand up for itself, in many regards, including inerrancy.
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 90-100