Textual Criticism and Inerrancy

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The first systematic theology in America to be written from a liberal point of view was published in 1898 by William Newton Clark (1840-1912) and entitled, An Outline of Christian Theology.  Clark’s life illustrates the shift from one biblical view to another.  He was the son of a Baptist minister.  He grew up respecting the Bible.  Studies at Hamilton Theological Seminary confirmed his convictions that the Bible was the inspired Word of God and incapable of error.  He graduated in 1863 and entered the ministry.  He spent 27 years in ministry.  Early in his ministry, his views remained constant until he moved to Newton Center, MA in 1869.  Contact with liberal faculty members at Newton Theological Seminary convinced him that the Bible was not verbally inspired.
In 1880, Clark transferred to Toronto and began reading biblical criticism.  He did not resist the conclusions of higher criticism.  In 1890, he left the ministry and became professor of theology at Colgate Theological Seminary and in 1898, he wrote his systematic theology.  A summary of his views follows.
First, he affirms that textual criticism confirms our general confidence in Scripture, but slays our hope of absolute perfection.  The Bible is not inerrant (p. 107).
Second, he affirms that inspiration is not verbal, nor revelation propositional (p. 107).
Third, he states that God had inspired ideas, principles, and concepts but not words.
Fourth, he argued that the proof-text was inextricably tied to the doctrine of inerrancy (p. 107).
Fifth, he believed that the Scriptures were a very human book, complete with errors of every kind, through which God, nonetheless, still spoke (p. 108).  (The Bible in America, Nathan O. Hatch, Mark A. Noll, “Fundamentalist Use of the Bible,” by Timothy P. Weber, pp. 101-120).
Some observations concerning the above material are in order.
First, if we do not have an inerrant Bible, we do not have the truth of God’s Word today!  This is an important fact.  Inerrancy is equivalent to truthfulness.  If the Bible is full of errors, then it is unreliable and untrustworthy.  Why believe a book that isn’t true?
Second, Clark affirms that textual criticism has destroyed the doctrine of inerrancy.  The correlation between textual criticism and the veracity of scripture is important.  Who can deny that textual criticism has eroded confidence in the veracity of Scripture?  What is textual criticism?  Basically, textual criticism is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with finding and removing errors in the texts of manuscripts.  J. Keith Elliott represents the thinking of theological liberals today.  He states, “The sooner that the language of inerrancy is dropped in the context of textual criticism the better it will be for scholarship” (Perspectives on the Ending of Mark, ed. by David Alan Black, pp. 100-101). Elliott is professor of New Testament Textual Criticism at the University of Leeds.  What is the consequence of such thinking?  The Bible is a human work, not inspired of God, not inerrant.  If this is the case, how could we say that it is the word of life? (John 6:63).  Inspiration and inerrancy have a connection to salvation.  John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
Third, not only is salvation at stake in this discussion, but so is preaching.  Why preach from a Bible full of errors?  How could preaching a Bible that is not true establish faith in God in the hearts of men?  see Rom. 10:11-17.  Preaching would be in vain.
Fourth, not only would salvation and preaching be in vain, but we could not confidently claim true religion.  True religion is based upon the sure Word of God.  Destroy God’s Word and you have no foundation for true religion.  The Great Commission confirms this.  Disciples of Jesus Christ are made by teaching and preaching the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).  If we do not have a true Gospel, then, we cannot be confident that we are making true disciples of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel, the Word of God and the truth are all synonymous terms.
The doctrines of liberal theologians would destroy Christianity.

Undesigned Coincidences

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     John J. Blunt wrote a book titled, Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the Old and New Testament, in which he defends the veracity of the Scriptures by giving examples of consistency without design.  He uses internal evidences to show that the writers of the books of the Bible truthfully represent the natural historical events and the miraculous and prophetic events of the Scriptures.  I am hoping to revive this work as a part of the apologetic for the veracity of the Word of God.  My copy was written in 1891.  However, the book has been reprinted and is available through several websites that sell books.  I have written a review of this book and posted it under Book Reviews on my blog.  Please take a moment and read this review.  I hope you find the examples as intriguing as I did!

Problems With Bible Classes/Sunday School

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     As a follow-up to the previous blog, I wanted to give you some information from the book Already Gone written by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer.  A survey of 1,000 20-somethings who regularly attended church as children and teens, were asked, “Did you often attend Sunday School?”  In reply, 61 percent said yes; and 39 percent said no.  The survey found that “Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children” (p. 38).  Children who regularly attend Sunday School are actually:
     1.  More likely NOT to believe that all the accounts/stories in the Bible are true/accurate.
     2.  More likely to doubt the Bible because it was written by men.
     3.  More likely to doubt the Bible because it was not translated correctly.
    4.  More likely to defend premarital sex.
     5.  More likely to defend that abortion should continue to be legal.
     6.  More likely to accept that gay marriage should be legal.
     7.  More likely to believe that God used evolution to change one kind of animal into another.
     8.  More likely NOT to believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
     9.  More likely to question the Bible because they believe the earth is not less than 10,000 years old.
    10.  More likely to doubt the Bible because of secular dates of billions of years for the age of the earth.
    11.  More likely to have heard a minister/Sunday school teacher teach Christians could believe in millions/billions of years.
    12.  More likely to question the earth is young and the days of creation are 24 hours each.
    13.  More likely to believe that dinosaurs died out before people were on the planet.
    14.  More likely to view the Church as hypocritical.
    15.  More likely to have become anti-church through the years.
    16.  More likely to believe that good people don’t need to go to church.    (see p. 39 of Already Gone)
     Belief in the Bible as the Word of God is diminshing among many young people, even those who have attended Bible classes or Sunday School.  These young people are rejecting the historical accuracy of the Bible.  They are rejecting the inspiration and authority of the Word of God.  Why?  Secular humanism (denial of God and His Word) and postmodernism (rejection of an objective standard of truth) have taken their toll on the faith of many children.  What they are taught in the classrooms of our schools is slowly winning out over what they are taught in Bible classes. 
     What can we do about this situation?  Spiritual leaders must continue to teach and to defend the Word of God.  We must be able to prove the case for the inspiration and authority of God’s Word.  Bible classes must not only teach the content of Scripture, but must also provide evidence for the veracity of Scripture.  Bible classes must not be “play time” and “chat times.”  They need to be rooted and grounded in Scripture with an emphasis on the evidences that show Scripture to be valid and believable.

Are Apographs Inspired?

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     The inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Scriptures are vital topics to the Bible student.  Many have given up on the doctrine of inerrancy which affirms that the Scriptures are without error and thus present the truth of God to man.  Some scholars affirm that the Scriptures are inspired and inerrant in the original autographs, but hesitate to comment on the apographs (copies of the original documents and translations of the copies).  With regard to the original documents of the New Testament books (27 in all), we do not possess any of the original manuscripts.  We have copies of those manuscripts and we have translations of those copies in various languages of men today.  The question before us is this:  “Are the Apographs Inspired?”  I would like for you to consider the following thoughts.
     First, Jesus referred to a copy of the book of Isaiah as Scripture.  In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus is in a synagogue in Nazareth on the sabbath day.  He was given a scroll of the book of Isaiah (v. 17).  Was this the original autograph of the book of Isaiah?  Or, was it an apograph?  Most scholars believe that the original OT autographs were not in existence in Jesus’ day.  Also, Moses was read in every synagogue on the sabbath day and consequently many copies of the Old Testament scrolls must have been in existence.  Jesus is reading from a copy of the book of Isaiah.  What is His attitude toward that copy?  In v. 21, Luke records, “And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”  Jesus referred to an apograph as Scripture. 
     Second, in Acts 8, the evangelist Philip joins himself to a chariot with a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who was riding in it.  The eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah.  Was this an original autograph of this Old Testament book or a copy of it?  It was a copy of the book of Isaiah.  Luke, the author of Acts, does not hesitate to call this apograph, Scripture.  In Acts 8:32, God says, “The place of the scripture which he read was this…”   The word Scripture is found 52 times in the New Testament and it always refers to a divinely inspired document and never to a secular document.  Isn’t this proof that the apographs (copies of the original documents) are inspired? 
     Third, I am currently involved in a study of the Old Testament quotations in the Gospel of John.  There are fourteen specific quotations in John’s Gospel that are recognized as quotations while there are as many as 79 allusions to the Old Testament in this Gospel.  Three of the fourteen quotations are from the Septuagint transation.  The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made approximately 250 B. C.  The three passages are: 1:23, 12:38, and 12:40 (see The Greek New Testament, UBS, 3rd ed. p. 899).  John, an apostle, wrote this Gospel account and used these passages from the Septuagint authoritatively to prove his thesis: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 20:30,31).  Here is an inspired apostle, using a translation in an authoritative manner to prove the identity of Jesus Christ.  He could not do this, if the translation is not recognized as the Word of God.
     I offer the above information as proof that apographs (where accurately made) are the inspired Word of God.  To say otherwise would mean that we do not have the Word of God today.  Many are affirming this very point.  However, I believe that we have the Word of God today and that we have it in accurate and faithful translations whether English or otherwise.  How could we fulfill the Great Commission if we didn’t?  Consider Rev. 14:6, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”  How can you proclaim the everlasting gospel to every tongue (language) without translation of the Word of God into the different languages of men?  Either we have the truth or we are all lost and without hope.  I believe that we have the truth of God’s Word today!