The interview is mainly about God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, but the questions in Part 2 ranged from Inerrancy to the New Perspective with the SBC reformation in between.
Category Archives: Inerrancy
Why I’m confident in the Bible (from the interview on the CBD Academic Blog):
I think that the Bible itself claims to be totally true and trustworthy, and that we would need far more information than we will ever have to overturn its claims or show its falsehood. Therefore, I want to approach the Bible not from a skeptical perspective but from a sympathetic one, trusting that its authors were neither stone-age idiots nor less-evolved troglodytes whose ethical and theological sensibilities are objectionable to modern, enlightened sensibilities. These biblical authors bore the image of God and communicated, I think, a coherent message in stunning artistry.
Congratulations to D. A. Carson on the appearance of his Collected Writings on Scripture. The publisher’s description:
God’s Word has always had enemies, but in recent years the inspiration and authority of Scripture have been attacked with renewed vigor. Respected scholar D. A. Carson has written widely on the nature of Scripture over the past thirty years, and here presents a timely collection of his work in two parts.
In part 1, Carson selects essays written on such themes as how to interpret the Bible, recent developments in the doctrine of Scripture, unity and diversity in the New Testament, and redaction criticism. Presenting a theologically balanced and confessional perspective, Carson defines the terms of a number of debates, critiques interpretive methods and theories, and suggests positive guidelines for future action.
Part 2 presents critical reviews of nine books dealing with the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Though substantial in content, Carson’s detailed reviews will foster careful thought and perspective in those who are relatively new to the debates surrounding biblical inspiration and authority.
This volume is a diverse collection that will prove to be a helpful resource to both seasoned pastors and scholars and those who are just starting serious study of the Bible.
This will be an important resource for those thinking through the nature of Scripture, and it’s a nice appetizer for the forthcoming Scripture Project.
I don’t think there are errors in the Bible, and I think that valid explanations can be given for difficulties that do exist. I started a new sermon series on Ezra – Nehemiah this morning at Kenwood, and I had planned to comment on some numerical discrepancies in the text. Because of time, I decided to cut this whole section from the sermon, so here’s the portion of my manuscript that got passed right over:
The material in Ezra 2 is repeated almost exactly in Nehemiah 7, but there are some differences between the two chapters. One of those differences is that in Nehemiah 7:7 there are 12 names. Many scholars think this indicates that there were probably 12 names in Ezra 2:2, and one of the names was not copied by mistake. If this is correct, the fact that there were 12 leaders of the returnees represents an intentional reconstitution of the 12 tribes of Israel. Even if this wasn’t originally the case with Ezra 2:2, it is the case with Nehemiah 7:7.
Let me be very clear about what I’m saying here. I am not saying that the author of the book of Ezra made an error. I am saying that it appears that those who copied the book of Ezra made an error. This kind of thing is why evangelicals say that the Bible is inerrant in the autographs. An autograph is the hand-writing of some famous person. The autographa or autographs of the biblical manuscripts are the hand-written copies made by the authors themselves. We believe that the authors of the books of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit kept the authors from making errors. God is true and trustworthy, and what he communicated in the Scriptures through the biblical authors is true and trustworthy. So when we say that the Bible is inerrant in the autographs, we are simply saying that God did not inspire every scribe who copied the Bible so as to preserve them from error.
This portion of Ezra, with the numbers at the end of chapter 1 and the names in chapter 2, seems to have been a challenge for the scribes. The reason for this is that when numbers were written in ancient Hebrew, they used a system of symbols that might not have been clear to later copyists. Derek Kidner refers to “many other indications in the Old Testament that numbers were the bane of copyists.” In the same way, the similarity of many Hebrew names could have caused scribes difficulty as they copied the text. We see difficulty with numbers in two ways in this section of Ezra:
First, if we add up the numbers of vessels in Ezra 1:9–10, they total 2,499, less than half the total of 5,400 given in Ezra 1:11. This could be because of scribal error, or it could be that though the total number is complete, the itemization is only an excerpt.
Second, if we add up the numbers in Ezra 2, we get a total of 29,818. The numbers in Nehemiah 7 total 31,089. The number in the Greek translation, 1 Esdras, totals 30,143. But all three lists state that the total number is 42,360 (Ezra 2:64; Neh 7:66; 1 Esdras 5:41). Kidner writes, “There is general agreement that the divergences are copying errors, arising from the special difficulty of understanding or reproducing numerical lists.”
How should we respond to this kind of information? One way to respond is the way Bart Ehrman does: “What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies . . .” If you are looking for excuses to rebel against the Bible, you can go Ehrman’s way.
Another way to respond to this kind of information is to look at what we have and ask if what we have is enough to enable us to get at the message of Ezra? So the numbers of the temple vessels don’t add up, a name appears to have fallen out, and the numbers in Ezra 2 don’t match the total given at the end of the list. There may be valid explanations for each. The lists may be excerpts while the totals are complete. The copyists may have bungled the job. Can we understand the text in spite of these difficulties? I think we can. In fact, I think that going Ehrman’s way would be as silly as receiving a reliable written message from someone you trust, warning you about a nuclear attack, and rejecting the message because the word nuclear is misspelled. Would you risk being nuked because of a spelling error? Would you risk going to hell because there are difficulties (difficulties that have plausible explanations) in these lists in the Bible?
These difficulties do not keep us from understanding the message of the text. We can see, in spite of the question about the numbers of the vessels, that God kept his promise (Jer 27:21-22) and restored those temple vessels. We can see, in spite of the question of the numbers of the returnees, that the people of Israel are restored to their land.
 So Mark A. Throntveit, Ezra-Nehemiah, Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 18; Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 37; H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1985), 24.
 Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 38.
 So Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 46–47.
 See Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 35 n. 1.
 Ibid., 43. Cf. also Fensham, Ezra and Nehemiah, 57.
 Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 7.
Eric Auerback (Mimesis, 14-15) writes that the intent of biblical stories:
“is not to bewitch the senses, and if nevertheless they produce lively sensory effects, it is only because the moral, religious, and psychological phenomena which are their sole concern are made concrete in the sensible matter of life. But their religious intent involves an absolute claim to historical truth. . . . Without believing in Abraham’s sacrifice, it is impossible to put the narrative of it to the use for which it was written. . . . The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy . . . The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”
HT: A. Philip Brown II, Hope Amidst Ruin, 28 n. 23.
“Still Sola Scriptura: An Evangelical View of Scripture,” pages 215–40 in The Sacred Text: Excavating the Texts, Exploring the Interpretations, and Engaging the Theologies of the Christian Scriptures, ed. Michael Bird and Michael Pahl. Gorgias Précis Portfolios 7. Piscataway: Gorgias, 2010.
You can also get to the essay by clicking the cover of the book on the right hand side of the blog, or by going to the “Articles & Essays” page of this site.
As Jesus said, the word of God is truth, and may God sanctify us in that truth (John 17:17).
Newly released from Gorgias Press:
Michael F. Bird and Michael W. Pahl, eds. The Sacred Text: Excavating the Texts, Exploring the Interpretations, and Engaging the Theologies of the Christian Scriptures. Gorgias Précis Portfolios 7. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2010.
Introduction: From Manuscript to MP3 – Michael F. Bird
The History of the Texts
The Septuagint as Scripture in the Early Church – Karen H. Jobes
Scripture in the Second Century – Tomas Bokedal
Scripture and Tradition: Seeking a Middle Path – Michael W. Pahl
Scripture and Canon – John C. Poirier
The Interpretation of the Texts
Scripture and Biblical Criticism – Jamie A. Grant
Scripture and Theological Exegesis – Thorsten Moritz
Scripture and Postmodern Epistemology – Robert Shillaker
Scripture and New Interpretive Approaches: Feminist & Post-Colonial – Jennifer G. Bird
The Theological Status of the Texts as Scripture
Catholic Doctrine on Scripture: Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Interpretation – Brant Pitre
Scripture in Eastern Orthodoxy: Canon, Tradition, and Interpretation -George Kalantzis
Still Sola Scriptura: An Evangelical Perspective on Scripture – James M. Hamilton Jr.
The Word as Event: Barth and Bultmann on Scripture – David Congdon
Can be ordered here.