Is the Bible inerrant?
Three inconclusive indicators of biblical inerrancy/errancy
Proving biblical inerrancy or errancy:
As described elsewhere on this site, proving biblical inerrancy or errancy appears
to be impossible. Ultimately, these beliefs must be accepted on faith. However,
if proofs are not available, at least we
might be able to derive some strong indicators
of inerrancy or errancy. The most promising route may be to study themes and
general topics seen throughout the Bible.
We have examined twelve themes. Nine seem to support biblical errancy.
Four indicators are located in one essay;
five in another. The
following three are inconclusive. We have found no indicators that support
biblical inerrancy. If any reader knows an additional biblical theme that might
indicate or prove errancy or
inerrancy, please E-mail us.
The three themes listed below are described very briefly, and in general terms. We
hope to expand each description into a full essay sometime in the future.
Indicator 1: Presence of accurate prophecies:
Possibility 1: The Bible is God's word. Some conservative
Christians believe that it was
directly written by God using human authors and a type of dictation
process. Others believe that it was written by humans
under the inspiration of God. Either way, God prevented the authors
from making errors; this would include making errors when predicting events
that will happen in the future, and their outcomes. Any prophecy that
appears in the Bible would thus be certain to come true, either in our
past, now, or at sometime in our future.|
Possibility 2: The Bible was written by fallible humans
without direct inspiration from God. Thus, the Bible would contain errors,
including errors in foretelling the future. The authors might make
some lucky guesses so that some of the prophecies in the Bible would
come true. But, not knowing the future precisely, most of their
predictions would be in error.|
||What the Bible actually says: Various modern-day writers have
counted many hundreds of prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) alone. But there is no consensus about what percentage have
||Conservative Christians generally state that, for example, all of the 200
or so prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that foretold the life
of Jesus Christ came true, and that they were 100% accurate. They
believe that hundreds of additional
prophecies not related to Jesus have already come true.
Skeptic Tim Callahan believes that not one "real" prediction has
true. He has very stringent rules for what defines a "real"
Conclusion: Until we are able to sort out this contradiction,
we will have to refrain from accepting the accuracy
of Bible prophecy as an indicator of either errancy or inerrancy. |
More info: See our menu on the accuracy
of Bible prophecy
Indicator 2: Presence of Bible codes:
Possibility 1: The Bible was written by God (or written by
human authors who were directly inspired by God). God inserted Bible codes into the text as a
sign of his presence.
Possibility 2: The Bible was not written or inspired by God
and no such codes were inserted. Alternatively, God may have influenced
the writing but had decided to not leave signs of his existence.
What research shows: Michael Drosnin, in his book "The
Bible Code," 2 described remarkable findings of equidistant
letter sequence (ELS) codes buried in the book of Genesis. These codes
formed words that made a number of predictions, from political
assassinations in the recent past to devastating earthquakes in the
near future. The book reached the #3 spot on the New York Times
best-seller list. By 1999-OCT, nine similar books had been written to
promote the idea of hidden codes. Statisticians were at a loss to
explain the findings. But further research indicated that codes are
found with equal frequency in Genesis, Tolstoy's "War and
Peace," in Melville's Moby Dick, or in any sufficiently long text. Drosnin
stated to a reporter "When my critics find a message about the
assassination of a prime minister encrypted in 'Moby Dick', I will
believe them." Shlomo Sternberg took him up on his offer; he
found 13. So did Brendan McKay. He found references in Moby Dick to
the assassinations of or by Indira Gandhi, Rene Moawad, Leon Trotsky,
Martin Luther King Jr., Engelbert Dollfuss, Sirhan Sirhan, John Kennedy,
Abraham Lincoln, Yitzhak Rabin and Princess Diana. 3
Drosnin's apparent response to this expose was to write "Bible Code
II: The Countdown" and make more profit. 4
Possibility 2 is the correct option.
Conclusion: If codes had been found uniquely in Genesis, and not in secular novels of
similar length, then one might conclude that
they were placed there by God. The task of inserting ELS coding would
be beyond the ability of humans because only God could predict the
future with the necessary degree of accuracy. If God were so
intimately involved in the creation of Genesis, then one might assume
that he would preserve the human authors from error. But codes
such as are seen in Genesis occur in any sufficiently large text. So, either God
does not exist, or he does exist but decided to not leave coded messages in the text.
This test is inconclusive.
Lifespan of Bible patriarchs:
Possibility 1: The Bible is God's word. God prevented the
authors from making errors. One theme in the Bible is that Adam and some
descendents for a few generations had lifespans of many centuries. Adam,
Seth and Methusela lived 930, 912 and 969 years respectively. 5 "According to the
Torah, Terah had died at the age 205, Abraham at 175 and Isaac at 180."
6 Some conservative
Christians believe that Adam and Eve's lifespan might have been infinite
except for their sin, and that as the effects of sin permeated all of
creation, everyone's lifespan got progressively shorter until it reached
today's "three score years and ten." (BTW, I reached this
2006-DEC-20, and so am currently living on borrowed time).
Possibility 2: The Bible was written by fallible humans
without direct inspiration from God. Thus, the Bible would contain
errors, including errors in lifespan. Many myths and legends from around
the world tell of distant ancestors who survived for centuries. The
Biblical stories might have been picked up these myths from nearby
cultures and applied them to their own culture's ancient heros. People
who lived at the time of Adam, Abraham, Solomon etc. would have actually
had a lifespan which was normal for those without modern medical
treatment -- i.e. perhaps 30 years. It would have been extremely rare
for a person to reach their 90s, let alone live for centuries.
What archeology says: Specialist forensic archeologists can
estimate the age at death of a person on the basis of their bones. For
children and youth, this can be done by measuring the length of long
bones and examining which teeth have erupted. Estimates become much less
accurate beyond the age of 30. Tooth wear is one method of estimating
age. Unfortunately, it is dependent on the type of food that the person
ate during their lifetime. This measuring technique would be useless if
applied to skeletons from the time of Abraham, etc. We only have a rough
idea of their diet. Also, if degeneration set in due to original sin of
Adam and Eve, one would expect that teeth might have been much more
resistant to wear in ancient times. So tooth wear of a 900 year old
might resemble the that of a 60 year-old today.
Another method is to use the changes which occur at the pubic
symphsis (the joint at the front of the pelvis). This is generally
ridged in the young adult, and becomes progressively smoother with
age (other changes are also taken into consideration). However, this
part of the skeleton is rarely preserved in ancient skeletons, and
the method is very difficult to use accurately when it is.
There is a technique that has been used on dinosaur bones. Jack
Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Bozeman, MT, practices what he
calls "destructive paleontology." He shaves off very thin slices
of dinosaur bones and examines them under a microscope. He is able to
detect annual growth rings, much like those of trees. The precise age at
death of the dinosaur can be determined by simply counting the rings. We
can find no record of this technique having been used to estimate human
age at death. However, it may have potential. 8
In summary, there is no way to prove disprove extreme longevity in
people who lived thousands of years ago. However, research in the future
may make this possible.
Related essay on this web site:
The three indicators above are currently inconclusive; none supports either the
inerrancy or errancy of the Bible. More study is needed.
Tim Callahan, "Bible prophecy: Failure or fulfillment?,"
Millennium Press, (1997), Page 6.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Michael Drosnin, "The Bible Code," Touchstone Books, (1998).
reviews or order this book.
Brendan McKay "Assassinations foretold in Moby Dick," (1977), at:
Michael Drosnin, "Bible Code II: The Countdown,"
Penguin Books, (Reprinted 2003).
reviews or order this book.
- See: Genesis 5:5, Genesis 5:8 and Genesis 5:27,
Ismar Schorsch, "Parashat HaShavua," 1997-NOV-29, at:
Sue Anderson, "Skeletons in the cupboard: what a human bone
specialist can tell from your bones," Spoilheap, (1993) at:
Peter Calamai, "Dinosaur hunters finding new clues in those old bones,"
Toronto Star, 2006-APR-08. Page F4.
Copyright 1998 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2006-APR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson