of Inerrancy of the Bible has remained a theme central to all Judaic and
Christian theological thinking. Throughout the ecclesiastical history this view,
has either been clearly stated or tacitly presumed. As one may appreciate, in
addition to the ongoing inspirations, visitations and revelations, to which the
Christian saints so often have a claim, the Christian religion relies completely
on the Biblical texts for the formation of its doctrine and theology. All that
Christianity is today has been precipitated by the texts the world knows as
Bible; hence the importance of this subject in Christian literature.
At the same
time the question of belief in the Inerrancy (or Errancy) of the Bible assumes
unusual importance for the followers of another great world religion. Muslims,
who follow Muhammad (sws) and believe in the Inerrancy of the Qur’ān, have an
altogether different approach. Not only do they strongly contest the claim of
inerrancy of Bible, but also discard it as thoroughly corrupted text, and
instead present the Qur’ān as the only inerrant scripture which is extant.
Comment on the Scripture
passages reject the earlier scriptures as fabricated. (These passages shall be
reproduced with brief notes in the later sections of this dissertation, so that
the reader may have a clear concept of how the Muslims view the Old and the New
This piece of
writing is an attempt to examine the doctrine of inerrancy of Bible as the
Christians believe in it. Biblical texts shall be studied to help the readers
form an opinion. For the purpose of presenting authentic information regarding
Christian views we have relied on the Jerome Biblical Commentary (Ed. by Brown,
Fitzmyer and Murphy, 1987, New Delhi) and A New Catholic Commentary on Holy
Scripture (Ed. by Fuller, Johnston and Kearns, Hong Kong 1981.) for Catholic
view point A New Bible Handbook by G.T. Manley for Protestant belief, and
various other authors whose reference the readers will find as they appear in
The idea of
God-inspired scripture was not one of the primordial themes of Israelite
religion -- understandably so, for this religion originated among people who at
first had no knowledge of writing and who existed for a long time under general
conditions unfavourable to literary pursuits. Nevertheless, in the course of
time the religion of Israel did become centred round the collection of books
that we now called the Old Testament. ‘In spite of the centrality it acquired in
Judaism, the Old Testament does not itself contain a doctrine of the inspiration
of Scripture.’ (Richard F. Smith F.J.: Inspiration and Inerrancy p- 2). But
before we proceed ahead we owe an explanation of the term ‘inspiration’ and the
phrase ‘divine origin’.
To the Jews
and Christians the phrase ‘divine origin of the Scripture’ denotes the special
influence of God upon the human writers of the Bible, an influence of such a
nature that God is said to be the author of the Biblical books. Vatican Council
I expressed it thus: ‘The Church regards them as sacred and canonical because
having been written under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they have God as
their author and as such have been entrusted to the Church.’ (Enchiridion
Biblicum, Rome 1961, page 77). In the Catholic view the divine inspiration of
Scripture is in the strict sense a supernatural mystery. They hold that it is a
reality which can never be fully comprehended and which will always remain
obscure and opaque to the human mind.
theology the words ‘inspired’ and ‘inspiration’ are frequently used both
generally of any and all prompting of God’s grace in and on the human psyche and
specifically of the divine prompting at the origin of the books of the Bible.
The basic Latin word in this area is the verb ‘inspirare’, meaning literally to
‘breathe into, upon, or in’. Apparently not employed in pre-Augustan and
Augustan writings except poetry. ‘Inspirare’ is chiefly a post Augustan word,
used both in its literal meaning and in a transferred meaning, namely that of
arousing a state or attitude in the human mind as in the statement: ‘His words
inspired anger.’ In Tertullian, the inspirare words are already found in a
transferred Christian application though only in the generic sense of the
prompting of God and not in the specific sense of those prompting that led to
the writing of Scripture. Early Christian Latin vocabulary used such words as
‘afflatus’, ‘inflatus’, and ‘instinctus’ -- the classical equivalents of our
modern word ‘inspiration’. Gradually however ‘inspirare’ came to be generally
used for that influence by which God is the source of the sacred books.
Greek has a
larger vocabulary to cover the area we are considering. English and Latin use
the same terms to refer both to the books and the their human writers (‘libri
inspirati’ -- inspired books and ‘scriptores inspirati’ -- inspired writers).
Greek, however, provides one set of words for inspired documents and another for
inspired human writers. An inspired book is described as ‘theopneustos’ (God
breathed) and an inspired person is defined as ‘theophoretos’ (God borne) and by
‘pneumatophoros’ (Spirit borne).
As far as
Hebrew is concerned the matter of terminology is simple; there is no set of
words to cover the idea of the divine inspiration of Scripture.
What does the
Old Testament say of itself?
Old Testament refers to the divine action of God upon the minds of the prophets
(sws) , this influence was phrased in terms of the oral proclamation of a
message that God had communicated to them but not stated in terms of its
dictation by God which needed to be recorded in writing. We sometimes find God
commanding a prophet (sws) to write (Exodus 17:14, Is. 30:8, Jer. 30:2, 36:2,
Hab. 2:2) and that Isaiah (sws) referred to his own written prophecy as ‘the
book of the Lord’ (34:16). But none of these expressions seem to indicate
anything more than the prophet’s consciousness (sws) to a pressing duty to
write. In other words, it might be true that the prophets (sws) claimed to have
received divine revelation, and that God commanded them to write it down, but
there is no reason to believe that the prophet (sws) actually recorded the
revelation under the guidance of God and the Scripture we now have in our hands
is the one so recorded. Thus, there is no indication in the Old Testament of a
divine influence upon the prophetic writer which makes it obvious that God is
the author of such writing. Moreover, the emphatic sentences such as ‘the spirit
of the Lord came upon him’ are limited to the action and speech of the prophet (sws)
and do not extend any where to the domain of writing. Thus, seemingly, the
doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, as it is understood in the Church
today, is not mirrored in the writings of the Old Testament: it is not denied,
but it is not affirmed either.
How and when
did the Jews come to believe in the divine inspiration of the Scriptures?
sections of the Old Testament start referring to the ‘Sacred Books’ (1-Mach.
12:9). But two famous events of Jewish History were instrumental in giving final
shape to the doctrine. One was the Josiah’s adoption (sws) of the Book of
Covenant (2-Kings 23:1-2). The other was Ezra’s reading out (sws) to the people
from the Book of the Law of Moses (sws) as something ‘the Lord had commanded to
Israel,’ (Neh. 8). The later Jews merely actuated the possibilities latent in
these events and from them sprang the doctrine of divine inspiration of the Old
between the status of Pentateuch and books of the Prophets
Owing to the
primary position which the Torah (written law) earned in the life of the Jews,
it was natural that the doctrine of divine origin should first form round the
Torah. According to the doctrine, which gradually took a more developed form,
the Torah was caused by God before the creation of the world and was revealed to
Moses (sws) by mental-oral instruction, or by delivery of the written text of
the Pentateuch, or by literal dictation. This Platonic pre-existence of Torah
was probably introduced by the Jews who absorbed Hellenistic ideas among whom a
notable name is that of Philo of Alexandria. Thus, the Pentateuch was believed
to be God’s words. (Although some exceptions within the Pentateuch were made
such as Dt. Ch. 28) Under this influence the doctrine of the divine origin of
the Prophets and of the writings also sprang up. Yet there was a difference in
kind and quality between the Pentateuch and other books. The ‘Prophets and
Writings’ were written under the influence of God but this influence was not
thought to be the cause of every jot and tittle, as in the case of Torah. (Schurer
E.: A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ [sws], Vol 2 page
306.) Nevertheless, the divine origin of the Prophets and writings was fully
Belief in Divine Origin of the Old Testament
The belief in
the divine origin of the Old Testament is repeatedly expressed or implied in the
New Testament when Jesus (sws) refers to passages in the Old Testament as words
of God. The Christians have also argued on the strength of Acts 1:16, Heb. 5:12
and 1-Peter 4:11 that in the words of Scripture the Holy Spirit spoke by the
mouth of human beings and that the words of the Old Testament are ‘oracles of
God.’ The argument is reinforced by citing two more verses (2Tim. 3:16 and 2Pt.
1:21) which have become almost classic description of the involvement of God in
the production of Bible.
up... and said, ‘..this scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit
spoke by the mouth of David [sws] concerning Judas’. (Act. 1:16).
is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2Tim. 3:16).