authorship/inerrancy

The question of the authorship of the various books of the Bible has elicited quite a variety of responses most likely due to the varied backgrounds of each one. The questions asked by Dr. Alterman have lead to a discussion of history and culture and what the writers meant at the time the book was written. First of all it would seem natural to have some sort of common ground that will establish a place to begin the discussion. It is my belief if we claim to be believers in the God of the Bible we have to believe God was involved in the production of the text in some manner. Whether God inspired the minds of the various authors and scribes to accurately write what He wanted to be written or if it was just a group of authors over time wishing to write about a God they believe is real and it is their thoughts and actions alone or some place in between is the point of contention.

For those who view the Bible as some sort of authoritative book the question then is where in the spectrum do we find ourselves and what does that place on the spectrum do to faith and hope that we espouse as believers in Christ. Where does any position on the issue other than God being intimately involved in the production of the Bible lead us in our faith and claim to be children of God the Father as is portrayed in the Bible? Don’t we walk by faith and not by sight? The question of authorship seems to me to lead to the issue of inerrancy.

In an interview on AlbertMohler.com dated September 4, 2009, Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Seminary questioned Dr. Gregory Beale, Professor of New testament, Wheaton College, on Beale’s book, The Erosion of Inerrancy of Scripture. This is my take on the interview. Beale laments that our movement away from inerrancy is just a repackaging of the old attacks on the reliability of scripture. Dr. Beale states too often scholars insinuate authors of the books of the Bible were prisoners of their own time in history and culture and are unable to break free of that history and culture as they write even though inspired. Dr. Beale states this in essence presents a God who is powerless to overcome the culture of humanity to ensure what he wants to say is written as he desires.

 Paul said 1st Corinthians 14:33 that God is not an author of confusion. Paul also said in Ephesians 5:17 for us not to be foolish but understand what the will of God is. In 1st Peter 1:21 Peter writes that men did not act of their own will but were moved by the Holy Spirit from God. That tells me the scriptures are not bound to a point in history for God himself has no beginning or end. This Bible was not written to theologically trained individuals but to people similar to what we have in our congregations. As I read in the Bible Exposition Commentary, the writers assumed that these people could read it, listen to it, and understand it as led by the same Holy Spirit that inspired it. Isn’t that possible for us today while not denying the gift and importance of teaching in Ephesians 4:11?

 I mentioned in an earlier post Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes there is nothing new under the sun. Satan asked Adam and Eve, “Has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” We all know the results of the doubt Satan created. Aren’t we asking the same thing only in a different manner, “Did God really say (inspire) these words?” I guess what this all comes to is when we abandon the doctrine of inerrancy where do we stop in our doubts? If Jesus is the word of God as the apostle John said he was in chapter one of his gospel then what or who are we doubting when we doubt the inerrancy of scripture? I have been there and do not like what I have seen happen to a church body I loved which followed that path. If we believe in a powerful God don’t you think he could author a book of truth that is as timeless as He is and see it is handed down from generation to generation intact? It is beneficial to study the historical setting and the culture of the Bible to acquire a fuller picture of God’s truth, but if it is God’s word and He inspired it, and it says that Jeremiah wrote the word then I believe Jeremiah wrote it. Martyrs throughout history have suffered death for the word of God. In comparison, it is a small thing that I do to trust in the story of redemption woven through every page and every word of the Bible.

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7 Responses

  1. Good comments and thoughts that stimulate discussion. Reading of the our text and blog postings have challenged my view points I have to admit, but I am still holding onto a solid conviction of the inerrancy of scripture. Even more so with the OT that I did when I first encountered Historical and Textual criticism with the NT a few years ago.

    In a review of Beale’s book by Dr Peter Enns, (BBR 19.4 (2009): 628-31), he discusses concerns with the viewpoint that “evangelical understanding of inerrancy, promulgated in the CSBI (Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy), is the non-negotiable standard by which any differing assessments should be judged”. It seems that it can be used more as a tool against opposition instead of a baseline conviction that we as believers should hold.

    Does inerrancy need to be defended or can it stand on its own as the concept of inspired Divine Revelation? I firmly believe that truth can withstand and weather perceived attacks brought on by issues such as authorship and historical interpretation, especially when scholars involved are doing so with theological guardianship. I also firmly believe that we have and will see this approach affirm the truth and inerrancy as we progress.

  2. The Scriptures may not be bound to a point in history, but they certainly have their roots in specific points in history. By studying things like the authorship and possible compilation of books, we are not questioning the inspiration of the Bible; we are just trying to understand what it meant to the first people to read it. You wrote: “If we believe in a powerful God don’t you think he could author a book of truth that is as timeless as he is?” I agree that God inspired the Scriptures, and that what they teach us is true, and that that truth is timeless. That being said, God did not choose to inspire a book of systematic theology written over a period of six months by a single author; he chose to inspire a book of letters, of poems, and lots of other types of literature, written by lots of authors, over a period of hundreds of years. Even more importantly, it was all written in languages, cultures, and time periods foreign to us. By studying the historical and cultural setting of the different parts of the Bible, we are not just acquiring a “fuller picture” of God’s truth: it is the only way we can hope to “rightly divide” the Bible at all. We are not losing our faith to ask these questions; if we believe God is powerful enough to inspire and preserve his word, we should have the faith that it will stand up under our light and momentary questioning.
    I appreciate your stand for the inspiration of Scripture, though. It does seem like way too many people involved in the historical and cultural study of Scripture see it just as an anthropological artifact that they “murder to dissect.” I understand that many are just trying to be objective, but why do they actively try to undermine the faith of others if they don’t even have a dog in this fight?
    As a side note, to what extent do we consider the titles of Biblical books “inerrant?” To the extent that they were present in the original manuscripts? Just wondering, because I’m not sure most Biblical books were originally written with titles.

  3. I completely agree with this view of authorship/inerrancy. The constant questioning of authorship of different books grates on me, and it is precisely because of this. It is a matter of doubting the Word. Above all, God is the author and that is the basis of our faith in the Word, and our hope in His promises. To study is good, to learn from the culture and times. Constructive questions are always a way to learn, but not all questions are constructive.

    • I apologize if it grates on you that some of us sometimes doubt the Word. For me it’s just a matter of faith seeking understanding. I just want to be thorough in my understanding of Scripture, since so much of what I believe about God is based on it.

  4. I have a habit/characteristic/personality trait that I have had since I was a very small boy. Perhaps I was born with it. Perhaps I inherited it. Perhaps I just developed it at a very early age.

    When I clean(ed) my room/desk/office/garage/virtually anything, I generally completely empty the offending space completely. Then, after examining, cleaning, organizing, and sometimes tossing the items, they were/are returned to their respective places. The result? While such cleaning obviously doesn’t last forever, for a period of time, whatever has been cleaned is much nicer, more useful and less stressful. It should also be noted that such cleaning is a time consuming process. Although extremely effective, it is far from quick. On occasions, cleaning tasks are begun that are never completed.

    I hold a pretty conservative view of the Bible and its reading, application, and interpretation. I believe in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Having said that, I also recognize that my Bible knowledge and formal training are extremely limited. “What does all this have to do with Old Testament studies?” you may wonder. That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked! (OK, so maybe you didn’t, but work with me here.)

    Dr. Alterman is challenging us to examine our viewpoints in light of Scripture, and not just blindly accept what we’ve “always believed”. Am I offended by questioning the authorship of any book of the Bible, or to scrutinize any portion thereof? Not at all! First of all, with God as the primary author, to me it is of less importance who was chosen as the human author. Secondly, Scripture that cannot withstand some scrutiny would not be Scripture worthy of being followed.

    I view our encouraged inspection of the Word much like I view my cleaning habit/trait/characteristic. As we dig into the Scripture, we will take items out bit by bit, examine them, perhaps dust them off, organize them, and put them back. We may even discard some things, as further study may show them to be incorrect. In the end, what we wind up with is a much cleaner/more useful/stronger faith. I’m guessing you’ll agree that this is most likely one of those tasks that will never be truly completed.

  5. I should probably clarify my “lack of concern” with questioning authorship or scrutiny of Scripture. I DO have a problem with questioning for the sake of doubt or with intent to disprove Scripture. What I don’t have a problem with is questioning for sake of better understanding.

  6. I have to say that I, like others who have commented, still firmly believer in the inerrancy of Scripture. I know the following is a traditional and simplistic argument, but I think it is a good one. The apostle Peter writes: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Thus if Scripture does not have its origin in the “will of man” but in the “Holy Spirit,” how can we not believe in inerrancy? Scripture is not the product of man’s interpretation but it is the work of the Spirit.

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