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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Biblical Inerrancy: The Uniqueness of the Bible

My method in establishing the accuracy and authority of the Bible in its entirety will not be using some kind of “special religious facts.” Instead, I intend to show the validity of the full text using the same kind of cognitive, informational facts upon which all historical, legal and ordinary decisions are based. While this proof will not answer a whole host of other questions, including interpretation of the texts, it will demonstrate that they cannot merely be discarded.

There are many other things that contribute to faith besides the Bible. However, there is a reason that William Tyndale said, “a ploughboy with the Bible would know more of God than the most learned ecclesiastic who ignored it.” The factual nature of the Bible only increases its value, and while church history, the lives of the saints, personal experience and traditions all are contributors, without the Bible they have no upon which we can all focus to direct us. Paul wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2Ti 3:16)

The uniqueness of the Bible is where we start – the evidence that it is truly the most remarkable book ever written, and thus worth reading. Why uniqueness and not holiness? Simply put, it is not possible to declare a book Holy with earthly evidence. Since uniqueness is as close as we can get, that is the qualifier.

Unique in Continuity

The Bible is the only book that was:

a) Written over about a 1500 year span
b) Written by more than forty different authors
c) Written in different places (Moses in the wilderness, Jeremiah in the desert, Daniel on a hillside and in a palace, Paul inside prison walls, Luke while traveling, John while in exile, etc)
d) Written at different times, (in war, in peace, in exile, etc)
e) Written during different moods (some in joy, some in despair, some in conviction and certainly, some while plagued with doubt)
f) Written on three continents (Africa, Asia, Europe)
g) Written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)
h) Written in a vast array of writing styles, including but not limited to poetry, memoirs, satire, biography, autobiography, romance, and allegory
i) It addresses hundreds of controversial subjects that typically create opposing opinion when mentioned. Hot topics such as divorce, adultery, obedience to authority, truth telling and lying, homosexuality, parenting, the nature and revelation of God are all addressed with an amazing degree of harmony from beginning to end.
j) In spite of such diversity, it presents a single story – the redemption of human beings by God.
k) Finally, of all the people described in it, the lead is the true, living God made known through Christ. The whole Bible is Christ-centric. The law lays the foundation for Christ, the historical books the preparation for Christ, the poetic books aspire to Christ and the prophecies display an expectation of Christ. The Gospels record the historical manifestation of Christ, the Acts relate the propagation of Christ, the Epistles the interpretation of Christ, and the Revelation shows the summation of all things in Christ.

Contrast the Bible with the compilation of Western classics called the “Great Books of the Western World”: a selection of more than 450 works by over 100 authors spanning about 2500 years – Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Aquinas, Rousseau, Shakespeare, Hume, Kant, Darwin, Tolstoy, and Joyce to name a few. While they are all part of the Western tradition of ideas, they are extremely diverse in their views on almost every subject. If you were to take just ten of the authors in the series, all from one socioeconomic background, one generation, one place, one time, one mood, one continent, and one language, and had them address just one of the controversial subjects possible, would they all be in accord? Of course not, and the Bible’s diversity is much greater in scope, with clarity of position. Its continuity is unique, indeed.

Unique in Circulation

Billions of Bibles have been sold. In 1998 the United Bible Societies distributed over 585 million Bibles and Bible excerpts – and that is just one organization! No other book has known anything approaching its circulation

Unique in Translation

Through 1999, the Bible been translated into over 2200 languages, with the Wycliffe Bible Translators working on 850 more at that time. Simply put, there is no other book even remotely close.

Unique in its Survival

The Jews, when copying scripture, had three levels of proofreaders to ensure that every letter, syllable, word and paragraph was correct. Who ever counted the words, letters and syllables of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero or Seneca? Shakespeare’s writings, which are only a couple hundred of years old, are far more uncertain than the Bible. In every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays there are tens of readings which are in dispute, some of which materially affect the meaning of the passages in which they occur, whereas the text of every verse in the new Testament, save perhaps 12 to 20 exceptions, may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars that any doubt as to its reading must be related to interpretation and not to the words themselves. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of the Bible’s accuracy, and thus find ourselves in the latter case.

The Bible has survived more attempts at worldwide and nationwide destruction than any other text, yet each attempt has failed. Voltaire, who died in 1778, said that 100 years after his time Christianity would be swept away and pass into history. Instead, only 50 years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles! Critics have assailed its contents from the start. What other book has survived such a concentrated attack (or indeed, even suffered) by so many as the bible has? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet? Still it remains read, loved and studied by millions.

Humorously, “Scholars” have declared the Bible ot be wrong by showing that known facts did not support its history. Some examples are that Moses could not have written the first five books because writing was allegedly not known at the time, and that the Hittites never existed. In each case, the “scholars” were proven wrong by science.

Unique in its Teaching

Prophecy – the volumes of prophesy about the future and the Messiah represent the only book that has such a record of prophecies, and the only with such a large volume that have clearly been fulfilled hundreds and even thousands of years after their writings. The history espoused by the Bible has never been shown incorrect by archaeology. The “heroes” of the Bible are shown with their warts and all – the patriarchs’ sins, the people’s sins, the sins of the greatest king of Israel, the faults of the apostles and the disorder within the early church are all recorded. It’s heroes are not supermen and superwomen, but real people with real issues, which lends credence to its claim of historical accuracy.

Unique in its Influence upon Literature

Cleland McAfee wrote: “If every Bible in every considerable city were destroyed, it could be restored in all its essential parts from the quotations [in the literature] on the shelves of the city public library.” The Bible, as the foundation for Christianity’s predominant worldview in the West for the last 14 centuries, has influenced more literature than any other document.

Unique in its Influence upon Civilization

As a document that exerted such influence on the West, which has exerted the greatest influence on the World, the Judeo-Christian scriptures have influenced more than any other book in the world. It presents the highest ideals known to men, ideals that have molded civilization. Freedom, liberty, suffrage, equality, tolerance, diversity, justice and charity are fairly modern concepts which owe much of their origin to the influence of the Bible. Also, consider that the years the whole world over are marked by the arrival of the subject of the Bible, whether it is in India, China, Europe, the Middle East or the Americas…even if they now want to call it “M.E.” for “Modern Era” instead of “A.D.” for Anno Dominae (In the Year of Our Lord).

This combination of unique qualities does not make the Bible Holy, nor does it prove it is the Word of God. What it should prove is that it is a singular book superior in to all other books.

It has been said that, “If you are an intelligent person, you will read the book that has drawn more attention than any other, if you are searching for the truth.”

That book is the Bible. If you haven’t read it already, how can you dismiss it outright now? To read it and disbelieve can certainly be the actions of one seeking to improve himself. To not read it at all, however, is the path of the willfully ignorant.


  • Hi Hammer,

    Can the Bible be unique and still NOT be inerrant?

    You have more than enough evidence to prove it is unique. You still have a LONG way to go to show that it is inerrant.

    What Scripture was Paul referring to when he wrote to Timothy? The Bible had not even been compiled at the time of his letter. In fact, his whole letter had not even been written. Other books in the Bible had also not been written at the time he wrote his letter.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of your series.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/17/2005 03:57:00 PM  

  • Of course it can, David! it can even be unique and not holy. However, I would put forth that it cannot possibly be inerrant if it is not unique - therefore it was necessary to start here.

    The next post will begin to address some of the questions you have asked, and the third and the fourth will be really meaty! Please be patient with me - these take a while to write...

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 6/18/2005 11:29:00 PM  

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