Why we cannot prove either
biblical errancy or inerrancy
Attempting to prove biblical inerrancy:
The term "inerrancy" means to be without error. When applied to the Bible, it normally means
that the text as originally written in the author's autograph
copy was free of error. A closely related
belief is "inspiration" -- the concept that God guided the
authors of the Bible to write their books free of mistakes. Inspiration implies inerrancy.
Since God is traditionally viewed as omniscient, omnipotent and free of error, God could hardly inspire the
authors to write falsehoods.
We cannot prove that every passage in the Bible is true. There are major gaps in
the archaeological record. For example, there is no hard evidence that Abraham, Moses and
other early Bible characters before the time of David and Solomon actually existed. There is no concrete
that any of the major events prior to birth of David actually
happened. (e.g. expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the
building of the tower
of Babel, the Israelites' slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, etc).
The Bible itself claims
inerrancy; but those passages could themselves conceivably be in error.
There are many books in the world which claim to be inerrant. But they
teach different and conflicting beliefs. Thus only one at most can be truly inerrant.
It seems to be impossible to prove inerrancy or inspiration; these beliefs must be accepted on faith. If any reader knows a proof of inerrancy, please E-mail us.
Attempting to proving biblical errancy:
Skeptics often point to internal conflicts within the Bible. These occur
where two passages in the Bible describes an event very differently. Such
instances rarely seem to
be conclusive. Believers in
inerrancy can generally harmonize the two passages after a bit of thought.
More information on harmonization.
Skeptics also have pointed to apparent conflicts between biblical passages
and the archaeological record. However, such disagreements are rarely conclusive
either. Quite often, the only indicator of biblical error is a lack of
evidence. For example, there is
archaeological evidence that Jericho and other cities in Canaan were destroyed by
earthquake, fire and/or military conquest -- just as described in the Book of
Joshua. But there is no broken pottery or other artifacts at the sites that can
be dated to the time that the Bible says that the conquest occurred. Indeed,
material from the remains of the cities has been dated well before the time that
Bible implies that the cities fell. The cities appear to have been abandoned at
the time of Joshua.
Such conflicts can be harmonized
in a number of ways:
Archaeological evidence can often be interpreted in different ways,
and opposing conclusions reached.
Sometimes laboratory errors are made in dating archaeological
Most persons who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible also believe
that miracles can happen. God might have suspended physical laws at some
location and over some interval of time in order for a reason known only
to himself. For example, God might have altered the carbon 12/14
balance within an artifact. This would cause a carbon dating laboratory
to give an incorrect age for the sample.
There might be evidence still in the ground that proves that the
Bible passage is accurate. However it might not have been found yet. To
quote a common expression used by biblical archaeologists: "No
evidence of existence is not evidence of non-existence." Hard
proof may still be waiting to be uncovered in the sands of the Middle East.
tried for centuries to find the "magic bullet" that will
convince everyone that the Bible contains at least one error -- either an
irresolvable conflict between two biblical passages, or archaeological evidence
that solidly disproves the Bible. 1In the
author's opinion, none have succeeded. If any reader knows of
such a proof of errancy, please E-mail us.
Even if one apparent error exists, it can be explained away in various ways:
The original autograph copy of the book might have been inerrant, but a
subsequent copyist may have introduced an error.
Two passages may seem to be in error, but this is just because nobody
has yet been able to find a method that harmonizes them; a method may exist
that nobody has figured out yet.
Miraculous events may happen; so one cannot say that the
virgin birth is
impossible. It has not been observed in humans or other mammals in recent
years. But that does not mean
that it could not have happened once. Similarly, without DNA evidence, it is
impossible to prove that Jesus was formed by Mary and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' bodily resurrection could have happened. We have no eye
witness account of the event, but no evidence of an event is not proof
that the event never happened. Similarly, we have no proof that he was
resurrected. The eye witness reports could have been based on mass
Many conservative Christians believe that the Earth is less than
10,000 years of age. There is extensive evidence that the world was in existence before
4,000 BCE. There are structures, pottery, remains of camp-fires, and
hundreds of other types of objects that have been reliably carbon dated at 30,000 BCE or
earlier. However, conservative Christians do not
believe that carbon dating is accurate. And so, a proof of an old
earth that everyone will accept cannot be shown by carbon dating. Similarly,
samples of rocks have been dated back billions of years using
potassium-argon and similar radiometric dating systems. Again,
conservative Christians do not believe that these are accurate
measuring techniques either.