Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wayne Grudem on The Inerrancy of Scripture


EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS

A. The Meaning of Inerrancy

We will not at this point repeat the arguments concerning the authority of Scripture that were given in chapter 4. There it was argued that all the words in the Bible are God's words, and that therefore to disbelieve or disobey any word in Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God. It was argued further that the Bible clearly teaches that God cannot lie or speak falsely (2 Sam. 7:28; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Therefore, all the words in Scripture are claimed to be completely true and without error in any part (Num. 23:19; Pss. 12:6; 119:89; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 24:35). God's words are, in fact, the ulimate standard of truth (John 17:17).

Especially relevant at this point are those Scripture texts that indicate the total truthfulness and reliability of God's words. "The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times" (Ps. 12:6), indicates the flawlessness or absolute reliability and purity of Scripture. Similarly, "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him" (Prov. 30:5), indicates the truthfulness of every word that God has spoken. Though error and at least partial falsehood may characterize the speech of every human being, it is the characteristic of God's speech even when spoken through sinful human beings that in is never false and that in never affirms error: "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent" (Num. 23:19) was spoken by sinful Balaam specifically about the prophetic words that God has spoken through his own lips.

With evidence such as this we are now in a position to define biblical inerrancy: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
This definition focuses on the question of truthfulness and falsehood in the language of Scripture. The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.

It is important to realize at the outset of this discussion that the focus of this controversy is on the question of truthfulness in speech. It must be recognized that absolute truthfulness in speech is consistent with some other types of statements, such as the following:

1. The Bible Can Be Inerrant and Still Speak in the Ordinary Language of Everyday Speech. This is especially true in "scientific" or "historical" descriptions of facts or events. The Bible can speak of the sun rising and he rain falling because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens. From the standpoint of an observer standing on the sun (were that possible) or on some hypothetical "fixed" point in space, the earth rotates and brings the sun into view, and rain does not fall downward but upward or sideways or whatever direction necessary for it to be drawn by gravity toward the surface of the earth. But such explanations are hopelessly pedantic and would make ordinary communication impossible. Form the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes.

A similar consideration applies to numbers when used in measuring or in counting. A reporter can say that 8,000 men were killed in a certain battle without thereby implying that he has counted everyone and that there ae not 7,999 or 8,001 dead soldiers. If roughly 8,000 died, it would of course be false to say that 16,000 died, but it would not be false in most contexts for a reporter to say that 8,000 men died when in fact 7,823 or 8, 242 had died: the limits of truthfulness would depend on the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by his original hearers.

This is also true for measurements. Whether I say, "I don't live far from my office," or "I live a little over a mile from my office," or "I live one mile from my office," or "I live 1.287 miles from my office," all four statements are still approximations to some degree of accuracy. Further degrees or accuracy might be obtained with more precise scientific instruments, but these would still be approximations to a certain degree of accuracy. Thus, measurements also, in order to be true, should conform to the degree of precision implied by the speaker and expected by the hearers in the original context. It should not trouble us, then, to affirm both that the Bible is absolutely truthful in everything it says and that it uses ordinary language to describe natural phenomena or to give approximations or round numbers when those are appropriate in the context.

We should also note that language can make vague or imprecise statements without being untrue. "I live a little over a mile from my office" is a vague and imprecise statement, but it is also inerrant: there is nothing untrue about it. It does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. In a similar way, biblical statements can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported.

2. The Bible Can be Inerrant and Still Include Loose or Free Quotations. The method by which one person quotes the words of another person is a procedure that in large part varies from culture to culture. In contemporary American and British culture we are used to quoting a person's exact words when we enclose the statement in quotation marks (this is called direct quotation). But when we use indirect quotation (with no quotation marks) we only expect an accurate report of the substance of a statement. Consider this sentence: "Elliot said that he would return home for supper right away." The sentence does not quote Elliot directly, but it is an acceptable and truthful report of Elliott's actual statement to his father, "I will come to the house to eat in two minutes," even though the indirect quotation included none of the speaker's original words.

Written Greek at the time of the New Testament had no quotation marks or equivalent kinds of punctuation, and an accurate citation of another person need to include only a correct representation of the content of what the person said (rather like our indirect quotations): it was not expected to cite each word exactly. Thus, inerrancy is consistent with loose or free quotations of the Old Testament or of the words of Jesus, for example, so long as the content is not false to what was originally stated. The original writer did not ordinarily imply that he was using the exact words of the speaker and only those, nor did the original hearers expect verbatim quotation in such reporting.

3. It Is Consistent With Inerrancy to Have Unusual or Uncommon Grammatical Constructions in the Bible. Some of the language of Scripture is elegant and stylistically excellent. Other scriptural writings contain the rough-hewn language of ordinary people. At times this includes a failure to follow the commonly accepted "rules" of grammatical expression (such as the use of a plural verb where grammatical rules would require a singular verb, or the use of a feminine adjective where a masculine one would be expected, or different spelling for a word than the one commonly used, etc.). These stylistically or grammatically irregular statements (which are especially found in the book of Revelation) should not trouble us, for they do not affect the truthfulness of the statements under consideration: a statement can be ungrammatical but still be entirely true. For example, an uneducated backwoodsman in some rural area may be the most trusted man in the county even though his grammar is poor, because he has earned a reputation for never telling a lie. Similarly, there are a few statements in Scripture (in the original languages) that are ungrammatical (according to current standards or proper grammar at the time) but still inerrant because they are completely true. The issue is truthfulness in speech.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Common Objection #13- "If Jesus really performed miracles and rose from the dead, we would have more historical records referring to Him."

I believe this to be a fair question for those who are inquiring about the historical Jesus. As a sincere reader recently challenged:

"If these sorts of things really did happen on such large scales we would expect a myriad of eye witness testimonies and outside biblical reports around that time frame, but outside the bible, we don’t find any."

I believe Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona offer a satisfactory answer to this point in their book The Case for the Resurrection:

"In the first century, people did not have access to all of our convenient ways to record and preserve the facts about events. Further, we know that much of what was recorded in the past has been lost. New Testament Scholar Craig Blomberg , who served as an editor for and contributor to a large scholarly work on the Gospels, provides four reasons why more was not written on Jesus in his time: "the humble beginnings of Christianity, the remote location of Palestine on the eastern frontiers of the Roman empire, the small percentage of the works of ancient Graeco-Roman historians which have survived, and the lack of attention paid by those which are extant to Jewish figures in general." We know that about half of what the Roman historian Tacitus wrote is no longer available. Only a fragment of what Thallus wrote in the first century about ancient Mediterranean history has survived. Suetonius is aware of the writings of Asclepiades of Mendes, yet, his writings are no longer available. Herod the Great's secretary. Nicholas of Damascus, wrote Universal History in 144 books, none of which have survived. Livy, the great Roman historian, has suffered a similar fate. Only his early books and excerpts of the rest survive.

We also know of several early Christian writings that are no longer available. For example, an influential church leader of the early part of the second century named Papias wrote five books that are quoted by several early church fathers. However, none of these books have survived. Only a few citations and slight summary information remain. Quadratus was a Christian leader who wrote a defense of the Christian faith to the Roman Emperor Hadrain around 125. However, if Eusebius had not quoted a paragraph and mentioned his work, we would be totally unaware of its composition. The five books of Recollections, written by Hegesippus in the second century, have likewise been lost. Only fragments have been preserved, mostly by Eusebius.

What we have concerning Jesus actually is impressive. We can start with approximately nine traditional authors of the New Testament. If we consider the critical thesis that other authors wrote the pastoral letters and such letters as Ephesians and 2 Thessalonians, we'd have an even larger number. Another twenty early Christian authors and four heretical writings mention Jesus within 15o years of his death on the cross. Moreover, nine secular, non-Christian sources mention Jesus with the 150 years: Josephus, the Jewish historian; Tacitus, the Roman historian; Pliny the Younger, a politician of Rome; Phlegon, a freed slave who wrote histories; Lucian, the Greek satirist; Celsus, a Roman Philosopher; and probably the historians Suetonius and Thallus, as well as the prisoner Mara Bar-Serapion. In all, at least forty-two authors, nine of them secular, mention Jesus within 150 years of his death.

In comparison, let's take a look at Julius Caesar, one of Rome's most prominent figures. Caesar is well know for his military conquests. After his Gallic Wars, he made the famous statement, "I came, I saw, I conquered." Only five sources report his military conquests: writings by Caesar himself, Cicero, Livy, the Salona Decree, and Appian. If Julius Caesar really made a profound inpact on Roman society, why didn't more writers of antiquity mention his great military accomplishments? No one questions whether Julius did make a tremendous impact on the Roman Empire. It is evident that he did. Yet in those 150 years after his death, more non-Christian authors alone comment on Jesus than all of the sources who mentioned Julius Caesar's great military conquests within 150 years of his death.

Let's look at an even better example, a contemporary of Jesus. Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus' ministry and execution. Tiberius is mentioned by ten sources within 150 years of his death: Tacitus, Suetonius, Velleius Paterculus, Plutarch, Pliny the Elder, Strabo, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, and Luke. Compare that to Jesus' forty-two total sources in the same length of time. That's more than four times the number of total sources who mention the Roman emperor during roughly the same period. If we only considered the number of secular non-Christian sources who mention Jesus and Tiberius within 150 years of their lives, we arrive at a tie of nine each." [1]

So, the historical data we actually do have, especially after one considers other examples from antiquity, is actually impressive.

Finally, I would also like to add that I believe it to be mistaken to adopt the attitude that the gospels are not a reliable source of history.

For an exhaustive treatment of this question, see here or visit our Old and New Testament research page located here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resource:

1. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 127-128.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Book Release: The Resurrection of Jesus- A New Historiographical Approach by Mike Licona

Mike Licona's new book The Resurrection of Jesus- A New Historiographical Approach is now available! I just started the book yesterday and am very excited about his new approach!

About the Book from the Publisher

The question of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection has been repeatedly probed, investigated and debated. And the results have varied widely. Perhaps some now regard this issue as the burned-over district of New Testament scholarship. Could there be any new and promising approach to this problem?

Yes, answers Michael Licona. And he convincingly points us to a significant deficiency in approaching this question: our historiographical orientation and practice. So he opens this study with an extensive consideration of historiography and the particular problem of investigating claims of miracles. This alone is a valuable contribution.

But then Licona carefully applies his principles and methods to the question of Jesus' resurrection. In addition to determining and working from the most reliable sources and bedrock historical evidence, Licona critically weighs other prominent hypotheses. His own argument is a challenging and closely argued case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Any future approaches to dealing with this "prize puzzle" of New Testament study will need to be routed through The Resurrection of Jesus.

Contents



This is the book to read on the resurrection!

You can get it here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad