Introduction: Today’s post is part of a series of posts that this author is calling: “Great Writings on Biblical Inerrancy”. The hope for this short series is two-fold: 1). To expose the reader to great evangelical writers of the past who have written well argued pieces on Biblical inerrancy; 2). To equip the reader with the assurance that the Bible they read, hear on Sundays and rely upon throughout the week is the Word of God. The piece below is taken from Dr. Gleason Archer’s “A Survey of Old Testament Introduction”, Pages 33-34. Dr. Archer was professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deer field Illinois. He received his B.A.., M.A., PhD. From Harvard; B.D from Princeton and L.L.B from Suffolk Law School.
Dealing with Difficulties in the Bible
It must be admitted that the text of scripture as transmitted to us contains occasional difficulties which appear to challenge the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Some of these difficulties are relieved by a proper use of the science of textual criticism. Others, such as discrepencies in statistics or the spelling of names, call for emending of the text which goes beyond the available data of textual criticism. Still others present logical difficulties, such as the endorsement given in Judges 11 to the apparent sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter, when Deuteronomy 12:31 forbids all human sacrifice in Israel.
There are two possible methods of dealing with these problems: (1) one may hold in abeyance the biblical claims of infallibility until each individual difficulty is cleared up. Each time a new problem presents itself, the Bible becomes demoted to a suspect status until the matter is satisfactorily settled. Meanwhile, the believer is kept on the tenterhooks of painful suspense and anguish of soul until the Bible is again cleared of the charges against it.
(2) One may, even in the face of apparent discrepancies, retain his faith in the infallibility of the Biblical record and wait with patience for the vindication which later investigation will surely provide. Having been convinced that only divine origin explains the phenomena of Scripture, he takes his stand with Jesus of Nazareth upon the inerrancy of the written word of God, and looks forward to an eventual clearing up of all the problems that may arise.
Those who follow the second approach may perhaps be accused of illogical subjectivism, because they proceed on the basis of an apriori conviction. But this accusation is not well founded, for the Bible cannot be studied at all except upon the basis of one a priori or another. One must start with the prior assumption that the Bible is either a fallible record or an infallible one. There is no middle ground; one cannot remain in a state of neutral suspense and insist, “Just let the Bible speak for itself.” We must first of all ascertain what kind of book this Bible is which does the speaking. Is it the infallible word of God, or is it the error-prone product of man, having elements of divine truth intermingled with human mistakes? If it presents such data as to compel an acknowledgment that it can be only of divine origin – and it does present such data in abundance-then the only reasonable course is to take seriously its own assertions of infallibility. If the Scriptures constitute an authoritative self-disclosure of God, then any discrepencies which appear must be dealt with us as only apparent, not real. When all the facts are in, the charges of arror will prove to be unsubstantiated.
It should be pointed out that such a procedure is commonly followed in human relations without adverse criticism. For example, a husband who has come to the conviction that his wife is a faithful and virtuous woman will steadfastly refuse to become suspicious of her, even though she has been going out with some other man. Without jumping to adverse conclusions, he will simply wait further information which will clear up the situation and satisfactorily explain her association with the man in question. It would be foolish and unworthy of him to abandon his conviction of her integrity until her action is vindicated. Only an initial presumption that she is inconstant and untrustworthy would justify such a reaction on his part.
Even so it is foolish and unworthy for one who has been convinced of the divine authority of the Bible to question its infallibility until each new allegation against it has been cleared up.
A genuine, outright contradiction in the scripture (especially if demonstrable from the original autographs) would be good cause for abandoning faith in the inerrancy of scripture; but until such has been proved, or until some outright error in history or science has been demonstrated according to laws of legal evidence, the believer in scripture need never feel embarrassed about holding to the assumption that it is the inerrant word of God. It is highly significant that no such mistake has ever yet been proved to the satisfaction of a court of law, although various attempts have been made to do so.”