Defining Inerrancy: A Brief History of the Bible

Before we can define inerrancy, we must consider how we got the Bible that we have today.

As I am sure we are all aware, the Bible did not fall from the sky into the hands of Adam or Abraham or Moses or anyone else. The Bible was not created on any of the days of creation and was not even a compiled book of books for a long time. The earliest people passed on the story of creation and their own fall by word-of-mouth. It became, over the years, oral tradition.

When I say “oral tradition,” I am not saying that the creation poem, for example, is something that early people made up. Rather, I am saying that it was a story passed down orally from generation to generation. It was part of their social and religious tradition to pass on how the earth was made and how human beings got here. This does not mean it is made up, just that it was not in writing at first.

It was not until something like eleven or twelve thousand years after God made Adam that someone put those stories into writing. And, tradition holds, that Moses was the man who was assigned this task. At this time, the creation poems, the story of the fall, Abraham, Isaac, Lot, Joseph, and all the others became not only a story passed down orally, but a “printed” document (quite literally). Moses wrote even what was happening as it happened, sort of like a diary. And then he died. How he wrote his own death into the stories, we can only guess. My assumption is that someone like Joshua took over and finished the Pentateuch, as the first five books later came to be known, for Moses after he wandered off into the desert.

Much time passed, a couple thousand years. The Law and the Prophets were put into writing and kept together as best was possible in an era where they wrote primarily on scrolls. Then comes along a man named Jesus. He does wonderful works and claims to be God (indeed is God), is crucified for blasphemy, raises from the grave three days later, and ascends to heaven after charging His followers with the mission of spreading the Good News of His resurrection to all peoples.

Forty-ish years after these events take place, the Jesus stories are starting to be put into writing. And there are many. It seems everyone has their own spin on the Christ event. Some see Him as only divine. Some see Him as only human. Some perceive He is both, just like He claimed.

Preachers and teachers pen letters to these early groups of Christians, further solidifying what the real Jesus was like.

Some time after this, Christianity is spreading and is thriving alongside other religions in a city named after a man named Constantine, Constantinople. But, because there is no real unifying body of doctrine for these early Christians, each group is so individual that Constantine is having a hard time deciding which group to side with and controlling these people. So, he convenes the Council of Nicea.

At this council, Eastern and Western bishops, basically, vote on what is and isn’t orthodoxy. Through discussion and debate, they formulate what is known as The Nicene Creed. A short time later, at another council, these bishops, along with Pagan Emperor Constantine, they form what we now know as The Holy Bible.

But, this is not the Bible that we Protestants use. Rather, the first Bible was a little different. It included those books deemed proper for private reading, The Apocrypha.

Later, during the Protestant Reformation, Luther removed these books in favor of a less Catholic Bible, the one which Protestants carry today with the traditional 66 books.

Needless to say, this poses a dilemma for the issue of inerrancy: Which Bible is the inerrant one? The Bible the Catholics use, or the Bible that Protestants use? Maybe, to answer this question, we must actually define inerrancy.

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2 thoughts on “Defining Inerrancy: A Brief History of the Bible

  1. Erwin says:

    Is it possible to add another story to your excellent opening remarks-The Dead Sea Scrolls. Which is the right one? Is it possible to add another story – which of the 15 major English translations of the Bible is the right one? I hope I’m making my point without really having to make one as to where inerrancy lies.

  2. Glenn says:

    The Bible cannot be inerrant and I can prove it with one question: What were Jesus’ last words on the cross? Was it:
    A. Father, father, why hast thou forsaken me?
    B. It is done.
    C. To my father I commend my spirit.
    In the 4 Gospels, Jesus utters one of these sentences and dies. If the Bible were inerrant, then it stands to reason that all accounts would match.

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