Inerrancy questions

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by npetreley, Oct 14, 2003.

  1. npetreley

    npetreley
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    Before I get to the primary question, I need to "screen" your answers with the following prerequisite questions:

    1. Does the Bible as we have it today contain any or all of the following:
    a. copyist errors
    b. "guesses" of words and phrases due to imperfect knowledge of the original meaning of text
    c. less than ideal translation choices
    d. downright poor translation choices
    e. translation errors
    f. all of the above

    If you believe the Bible contains one or more of the above, then does that affect its theological authority? Why? Why not?

    --------------

    One of the posters here has (IMO irrationally) concluded that anyone who says the Bible is inerrant must therefore say God and/or Moses are to blame for any of the apparent errors or contradictions we find in the Bible. But I have always heard "inerrancy" defined as the Bible being perfect in its original form, not its current form. Do ANY of you readers of this forum believe the Bible as we have it today is a perfect representation of its original form, letter-for-letter, word-for-word, without translation guesses or translation errors? Assuming even that the Hebrew/Greek is perfect (and I do not assume that, personally), does anyone actually believe it is rational to use an English translation to assert there are errors in the original text? Is that how anyone here defines Biblical inerrancy?
     
  2. Paul of Eugene

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    The theological authority comes from God. He is able to use our translations to speak to our hearts.

    The translations we have are excellent translations but honest and careful translators disagree on phrases here and there, we all know that. It is the human condition.

    The Greek and Hebrew texts we have are excellently preserved over the centuries but honest and careful transcribers sometimes made copy errors. Therefore, it becomes a matter of judgement to try to divine the original text from the current copies, in some places. Honest and careful students of the word disagree on how to do that. It is the human condition.

    God has evidently decided to use this method of sharing knowledge of Him in spite of these apparant limitations. To the astonishment of us all, he allows human imperfection to color His original inspiration. It must be that in spite of the imperfections noted above it is good enough to accomplish His purposes. This becomes, perhaps, a comfort to those of us who preach; by the foolishness of preaching His Word is spread, and that in spite of imperfect preachers.
     
  3. npetreley

    npetreley
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    And in the end, as it should be, God is glorified, not us.
     
  4. Trotter

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    Amen, Paul.

    There are no perfect translations. Hebrew and Greek are languages that use words of many meanings and shades of meaning, while English is more exact (hence our extremely large number of words). Many words and phrases used in the Bible have no corresponding word or words in English, but most (yes, I said most) translators have labored long and hard for many years to bring about the most acurate translation they could.

    Is the Bible full of flaws and errors? I do not believe so. Whatever miniscule variation there might be found, God has not allowed it to change the meaning of His word. God's word is inerrant, no matter what we think or say. Whether we believe it so or not does not matter, it still stands as God's written revelation to man.

    In Christ,
    Trotter
     
  5. swaimj

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    The confusion, IMHO, is that some on the board are not making a distinction between inspiration and preservation. The Word was given to man by the process of inspiration. That is an activity that involved the original human author and resulted in the original text. God's work through the Holy Spirit of superintending the original human author is the guarantee that the original text was inerrant.

    However, God has preserved his Word in a different manner. In his sovereignty, he has chosen to use human and imperfect means to preserve his word in written form. This means results in a complete loss of the originals, yet a myriad of ancient manuscripts which contain some descrepancies. Liberals look at this process and conclude that, since we do not have the originals, and since there are descrepancies, we do not have the Word of God. They thereby reject inspiration (or re-define the term) and inerrancy.

    KJVOs are equally troubled by God's process of preserving his Word and concoct a theory of preservation which ignores the history of the text and demands allegiance to a particular translation that demonstrably errs. Conveniently, the translation that they have picked just happens to be the one they are used to, have always used, and which just happens to be in their language. Lucky them!
     
  6. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    npetreley,

    If you are going to accuse someone of making an irrational statement you ought at least to get it right. I tried to explain to you that my statement was directed only at those who contend that the Scriptures do in fact contain errors and yet still claim they have theological authority. My last statment to you on this subject (which you apparently didn't read or chose to ignore) was:

    My only contention with you was that, in the absence of any data that would indicate some corruption of the text or inadequacy of the English translation, it is intellectually dishonest to fabricate one simply to rescue a passage from an apparent error.

    For example, I had a seminary teacher who asserted that, since some of the head counts in the Old Testament seemed fabulous, they must have been copyist errors. He didn't even claim to know of some variant text that would indicate a copyist error; his sole basis for making the assertion was his personal judgement that the numbers just seemed too high.

    This is sheer fabrication of the sort that gives infidels the perfect right to accuse inerrantists of being intellectually dishonest in their handling of the Scriptures.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  7. npetreley

    npetreley
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    Your argument is self-contradictory and makes no sense. First you base your criticism on the assumption that someone will define inerrancy to mean the English text today is an exact representation of the original Hebrew, and the English translation describes things like rabbits and grasshoppers exactly the way we know them today. That's the only way to claim that God and/or Moses must be wrong about rabbits and grasshoppers.

    As an example of that, you cite someone who manufactures a copyist error based on his opinion of what the realy number should have been. This is rather bizarre, since if you are saying that inerrantists admit copyist errors occur, then there's no reason to claim that inerrantists have a problem with rabbits or grasshoppers, since inerrantists admit today's text may not be perfect representations of the original text, Therefore *YOU* are being more strict than an inerrantist in oder blame goes to God or Moses.

    In the end, you are just as guilty as the person you criticize. You "assumed" something about the text in order to claim that God/Moses are wrong about rabbits. He "assumed" something about the text in order to claim there was a copyist error. You're both guilty of making unfounded assumptions about the text in order to make your points.

    My answer to him would be the same as my answer to you: Show your evidence.

    Show me one or the other:

    1. That the text about rabbits and grasshoppers means exactly what you are interpreting it to mean, that these creatures are the exact same creatures we know by these names today, and show me why the text is an exact representation of the original as God gave it to Moses. Then you'll have a leg to stand on with your complaint that it's an error by God and/or Moses.

    2. If you don't believe in this type of "inerrancy", then show me that inerrantists believe the text about rabbits and grasshoppers means exactly what you are interpreting it to mean, that these creatures are the exact same creatures we know by these names today, and show me why they believe the text is an exact representation of the original as God gave it to Moses. Then you'll have room to complain about what they think. Otherwise you're just making it up in order to whine about inerrantists.

    To your number guy, I would say, show me the evidence for a copyist error. Then he'll have a leg to stand on for claiming it is a copyist error. Otherwise he's just fudging the facts to support his opinion.

    On the other hand, by admitting that inerrantists acknowledge copyist errors, you have to remove complaints like "brother of" Goliath from your list, since inerrantists would acknowledge that as an obvious copyist error. And there is ample evidence that it is a copyist error. So what's your complaint against inerrantists in this case? You have none.

    The question is, are you fudging the facts about inerrantists in order to support your opinion of them?
     
  8. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    Man, have you read anything I said? Let's try again. I said,

    I did not say that any particular English translation necessarily represents what was originally "written and intended." I did not say the text was in error as it was written and intended.

    All I said was that if a man assumes that the text was in error as it was written and intended - as many who deny inerrancy do - then he robs the text of any theological authority.

    Are you listening now? Listen very closely....I AM IN INERRANTIST...I DO NOT LAY ANY BLAME ON GOD OR MOSES....ALL I HAVE SAID IS THAT THE MAN WHO ASSUMES THAT THE TEXT AS IT WAS WRITTEN AND INTENDED IS IN ERROR MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT EITHER GOD ERRED OR MOSES LIED ABOUT WHAT GOD SAID.

    If you had read my posts you would have known that I made the exact same defence of the Leviticus passage that you make here, with the execption that I am not willing to say the text may contain a copyist error because I have no evidence whatsoever for it.

    The complaint list was not mine; it was Matt Black's. I haven't even commented on the Goliath question; I have only commented on the list of dietary regulations.

    If I were commenting on the "brother of Goliath" question I would simply note that the words "brother of" in the King James Version are italicized which means they were not in original text. Obviously the King James Translators put them there because they perceived a problem with the text as it stands. At least they were honest enough to put them in italics so we would know it was only their opinion.

    I have no problem with that text saying simply "Goliath." Obviously, not the same Goliath that David killed; perhaps his son or some other namesake.

    The only way the text presents a problem is if you start with the unreasonable presuposition that there couldn't have been two giants named Goliath who carried a staff like a weaver's beam.

    Again, I am an inerrantist! The only problem I had with any inerrantist on this subject was that some of us inerrantists use the "copyist error" defence with way too much liberty.

    Mark Osgatharp

    [ October 15, 2003, 05:41 PM: Message edited by: Mark Osgatharp ]
     
  9. npetreley

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    Mark, I apologize for misunderstanding your first point.

    But I guess I have a problem with assuming that the English translation we have is unquestionably a perfect representation of what God and Moses intended, right down to the detail that "chewing the cud" must mean exactly what we now consider to be "chewing the cud". The Hebrew just isn't descriptive enough to come to that conclusion, so why would anyone make that claim? It doesn't really say "chew the cud", it uses an expression "bring up something of little value" or "bring up what was swallowed" or even "bring up berries" which is roughly translated as "chew the cud". If there is an error, it is an error in the approximation that was made for the translation. So what? I don't see why that's such a big deal for anyone, inerrantist or not. So your statement still doesn't make sense to me:

    That man is assuming a LOT more than that the text as it is written and intended is in error. For example, with the "chew the cud" problem, that man is assuming, IN ADDITION, that the English translation is a perfect representation of the intention of the original Hebrew. I have no problem with the possibility that the original Hebrew in Leviticus 11 may be exactly what God/Moses intended. That doesn't mean that either the rabbit "chews the cud" or God/Moses lied. It probably means the passage has been inadequately translated.

    Now that I know what you believe, here's what I believe. I consider scripture to be inerrant in its original form.

    I also consider scripture to have been subject over time to limited variations as permitted by God for whatever may be His inscrutable purpose in permitting such things.

    This includes copyist errors, poor translation choices, inadequate knowledge of the meaning of the original text, etc. All of the conflicts and potential errors of which I am aware are trivial if not totally meaningless to doctrine or to the historicity of the events recorded. I certainly don't consider any of these variations to be significant enough to question the theological authority of the scriptures.

    But I don't see how anyone can deny that conflicts exist, especially between translations. And as for the original languages, we don't have the original manuscripts, so we can't say with authority (outside of the testimony of the Spirit) which manuscripts we DO have are closest to the originals. But since we DO have conflicting manuscripts, we know that not ALL of them are perfect representations of the originals.
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    I totally agree with you in principle. However, I think the phrase translated "chew the cud" probably meant a ruminant because the same term is used to describe both a camel and a cow which we know to be ruminants.

    As for the meaning of the word translated "hare", I think it is safe to say that no one really knows what animal it was and therefore those who say the text erred in it's identification of cud chewing animals are full of baloney.

    That man is assuming a LOT more than that the text as it is written and intended is in error. For example, with the "chew the cud" problem, that man is assuming, IN ADDITION, that the English translation is a perfect representation of the intention of the original Hebrew. I have no problem with the possibility that the original Hebrew in Leviticus 11 may be exactly what God/Moses intended. That doesn't mean that either the rabbit "chews the cud" or God/Moses lied. It probably means the passage has been inadequately translated.</font>[/QUOTE]Again, I agree. But my point still stands for those who think the text is a bona fide error that they cannot possibly maintain that the text has any theological authority, unless they are comfortable with a God who doesn't know about His own creation or a prophet who tells lies about God.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. Matt Black

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    I've been watching this thread with interest, wondering how long it would take you two guys to realise that you were really singing from the ame inerrantist hymnsheet. Now that you've reached convergence, a brief comment:

    Mark, my problem is not that I assume that this text or that text is in error - don't forget I used to be an inerrantist so would approach these difficult passages with the assumption that they weren't in error - but, rather, that when faced with evidence that apparently suggests the contrary ie:error, it is that evidence that pushes me towards the preliminary conclusion that either the original or the translation must be in error. I stress preliminary conclusion because it is not final and neither do I want it to be final - I want to revert to my original inerrantist position. So I need further evidence or explanation to push me back; I simply cannot take the position that because my theology demands inerrancy the evidence must agree with that - that to me smacks of the kind of blind faith which I decried in one of my posts on my thread and strikes me as being intellectually dishonest. The whole reason I started the thread was to invite such evidence and explanations.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt

    (Have posted last paragraph onto my thread for completeness)
     
  12. Mark Osgatharp

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    Matt,

    So when will you have enough evidence? There are all sorts of things in the Scripture for which we have no evidence at all except the Scriptures themsleves. We believe these things because God gave us the gift of faith, not because someone proved them to us.

    "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

    Faith says, if God said a certain animal chewed the cud, then it chewed the cud. Unbelief says, I'll not believe that animal chewed the cud unless I can see one and disect it and find out.

    Faith says, if God said he raised Jesus from the dead then He raised Jesus from the dead. Unbelief says, I'll not believe unless I can touch the scars in his hand and put my hand in his side.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  13. Matt Black

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    I'm happy with that kind of faith,Mark. What I struggle with is the kind of faith that demands credulity in the face of evidence to the contrary eg: faith that demands I believe that a rabbit chews the cud when the evidence says it doesn't; faith that demands that I believe the earth was created in 6 literal days when the evidence says that it took quite a bit longer than that (note: I am NOT denying that God created the earth, simply questioning the time He took). In such circumstances, in answer to your question, I require either evidence in favour of the faith position demanded or an explanation that marries up the evidence with the faith position. In the case of Lev 11:5-6, we are I believe achieving that with some of the posts, so don't let our disagreements spoil that

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  14. Mark Osgatharp

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    Matt,

    All of the evidence available to you, except for the Scriptures, says that when people die the do nor rise again. You have never yet met a man who died and rose again. Every grave yard, every mausoleum, every mummy, every tomb stone, and every skeleton you have ever seen testifies to the fact that men do not rise from the dead.

    There is far more evidence that people don't rise from the dead than that some unidentified animal that lived in ancient Israel didn't chew the cud. So which is harder to believe, that Christ rose from the dead as the gospels assert or that Moses was correct when he recorded the fact that God said a certain animal chewed the cud?

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  15. npetreley

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    IMO that passage is so ambiguous that I don't need to have faith that it's a rabbit or that it chewed the cud. I'm satisfied that I simply don't understand the passage well enough to know which. And, quite frankly, I don't care whether it's a rabbit eating its dung, some other animal chewing the cud, a rabbit chewing the cud, or some other possibility.

    But I do agree with you in principle. It is indisputable that the Bible says God raised Jesus from the dead, therefore I take it on faith that God raised Jesus from the dead. It is indisputable that the Bible says God created heaven and earth, and so I take it on faith that God did exactly that. It is indisputable that the Bible refers to Adam as a real person, so I take it on faith that Adam was a real person. And so on...
     
  16. Matt Black

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    Good point, Mark. Will go away and think about that

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  17. post-it

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    Nowhere in the Bible does it claim that God dictated the content. Rather he ONLY inspired it. Thus, there can be errors, deletions, lost verbiage, misinterpretation, interpolation, plagiarism, myth insertion and down right fraud by certain authors and later scholars. None of which removes the fact that it was INSPIRED by God and is worthy of our study and devotion. But all of which would cause major problems if DICTATED by God.

    For then we would have to believe that God has given us multiple messages and he "changed" his mind at a later time after writing the first edition, then after the 2nd edition, on and on after each additional change.
     
  18. post-it

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    Mark, I think you have overlooked that Jesus coming back from the dead was revealed to us as a divine miracle and is what we base our belief in God upon, but a rabbit chewing it's cud was not being revealed to us as a miracle, but rather an everyday occurrence and normal animal behavior.
     
  19. npetreley

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    This obsession on rabbits chewing cud is really beginning to amuse me, considering what the Hebrew really says.

    I pray Jesus will return long before this happens, but I can imagine a people endlessly debating a line from a book that says, "After eating the bad bologna, he woofed up his cookies."

    "But people don't woof! Dogs woof! Therefore the author is in error, and the entire text is unreliable. Plus, how can he woof cookies after eating bologna?"

    "Woof is the sound he makes when eating up the cookies. In the historical context, it is entirely possible that people made cookies out of bologna, and therefore the text is inerrant."

    "You're both wrong. The expression "eating bad bologna" refers to the habit of reading low-quality paperback materials..."

    ...and so on...
     
  20. Helen

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    Rabbits are rabbits and they chew their cud. They are not, however, ruminants. Here:
    http://www.nixonandmarshall.co.uk/rabbitdigestiontract.html

    The trick is in the definition of 'cud.' If it is defined as confined to ruminants, then what do you do with the rabbit which passes pellets which are not feces, and eats those pellets, as what they are is only partially digested food? It doesn't eat its feces; so don't confuse the two.

    The Hebrews knew about rabbits. They included their eating habits along with those of cattle etc., which re-ingest undigested or partially digested food. They were smart to do so. We are stupid to keep arguing about it.

    The Bible is inerrant in its original signatures. Yes, there are errors since then, but none which alter the basic message or history. We have tracked most of the copyist errors, and a good many others, which we 'declare' errors, are matters of our ignorance, not those of either the original authors or the translators.
     

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