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Inerrancy: Is the Bible free of error? All points of view.

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The meaning of inerrancy:

"Inerrancy" refers to a text that is considered accurate, truthful, and totally free of error. Any text that contains mistakes is errant.

The term is often used by conservative theologians to refer to the content of their holy book(s):

bullet In Judaism this refers to the Torah,


In Christianity to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. the Old and New Testaments),

bullet In Islam to the Qur'an, and

bullet In other religions to refer to their own holy books.

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Evangelical beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible:

In 1977, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) was established to "clarify and defend the doctrine of biblical inerrancy." Under its auspices, during 1978, over 300 evangelical scholars met and signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The Dallas Theological Seminary describes the statement as "... probably the first systematically comprehensive, broadly based, scholarly, creed–like statement on the inspiration and authority of Scripture in the history of the church." 1

It states in part:

"Article X

We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

We deny that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant." 2

An "autograph copy" of a document refers to the original wording as written by the author. No autograph copies of any book in the Bible exist today.

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Belief of biblical inerrancy in the U.S.:

On 2007-MAY-25, Gallup reported the results of a national poll on Biblical inerrancy. Those polled were asked which of three statements comes closest to describing their personal views about the Bible. The average of polls taken during MAY of 2005, 2006 and 2007 were:

  • 31% believe that "The Bible is the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word." This would imply acceptance of biblical inerrancy.
  • 47% believe that "The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally."
  • 19% believe that "The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man."
  • 3% were uncertain or didn't answer.

An identical poll taken during 2011-MAY showed little change:

  • 30% believe that "The Bible is the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word."
  • 49% believe that "The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally."
  • 17% believe that "The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man."
  • 4% were uncertain or didn't answer. 4

Formal education can have a devastating effect on a person's belief in inerrancy. 46% of persons with high school education or less believe that the Bible should be interpreted literally. This dropped to 22% for persons with some college education, and to 15% among college graduates.

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Claim of "Scientific Absurdities & Historical Inaccuracies" in the Bible:

The web site contains a beautiful graphical portrayal of what the author, Andy Marlow, believes are Bible contradictions in the Bible. Hovering over one of the arcs shows the topic of the "contradiction." Clicking on an arcs at the top of the page displays a list of the verses involved in the "conractiction," and their text.

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A problem with inerrancy:

An anonymous person posted a question on Quora, asking:

"Can someone help me evaluate the logic here: “As a Christian, one must take the whole Bible to be literally true, because if even a part of it is untrue then the whole thing is discredited”?

to which the webmaster of this web site posted:

"People who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible usually state that this belief only refers to the autograph copy of each book. That is, the book as originally written by the author. But no such copies exist. Changes have occurred due to copyist errors (intentional or accidental). Further, errors have crept in due to translations from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English or another modern language.

But if we believe that the Bible is true, then we would need to make a lot of changes to state and federal laws. We would need to make slavery legal again. We would need to test each woman getting married for the first time to check her virginity, and execute her if she has engaged in sexual activity. There are a whole bunch of “crimes” that call for the death penalty — like working on a Saturday — that would require new laws." 5

Topics dealing with inerrancy in this section:

Most of the following essays deal with inerrancy from a Christian perspective

bullet A brief overview; quotations; historical impacts of belief in inerrancy
bullet A more detailed introduction to inerrancy
bullet What is the impact of biblical inerrancy, authority, etc. on North American culture?
bullet More material on biblical inerrancy:
bullet What is biblical inerrancy?
bullet Terms associated with inerrancy -- authority, infallibility, inspiration
bullet Problems with infallibility
bullet Why belief in inerrancy can be hazardous to one's faith. Problems with inerrancy:  Part 1 Part 2
bullet Problems with biblical infallibility
bullet An analysis of apparent errors and inconsistencies in Jesus conception and birth
bullet Biblical inerrancy: beliefs, references:
bullet What Americans believe.
bullet Web sites dealing with inerrancy and errancy.
bullet Is inerrancy important?: Arguments yes and no
bullet What the Bible says about its own inerrancy
bullet Inerrancy, as interpreted by:
bullet Fundamentalist and other evangelical Protestants

bullet Mainline and liberal/progressive Protestants

bullet The Roman Catholic Church


Contrasting beliefs among different Christian groups

bullet Why we cannot prove biblical inerrancy or errancy
bullet Harmonizing apparent biblical conflicts
bulletAn alternative to inerrancy: the Bible is largely mythical: Essays donated by R. C. Symes:
bullet "Myths surrounding Jesus' birth"

bullet "The resurrection myths about Jesus"

bullet "Jesus' miracles and religious myth"

bullet "Bible prophecies and myth"


"Is the Bible the Word of God or Myth of men?"

  • Part 1: Bible origins, variations, forgeries, etc.

  • Part 2: Biblical errors and contradictions

bullet Twelve tests of biblical inerrancy/errancy:
bullet Part 1: Four indicators of errancy

bullet Part 2: Five more indicators of errancy

bullet Three indicators that are currently inconclusive

bullet A final indicator of errancy based on biblical ambiguity
bullet Did the Holy Spirit inspire the authors of the Bible?
bullet Books on biblical errancy, inerrancy, reliability, etc.

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Classroom video:

bullet provides a theology program (TTP) which explains various historical beliefs from a conservative Protestant perspective. One free video is Session 8 - Inerrancy. See:

References used:

  1. "Records of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy," Dallas Theological Seminary, undated, at:
  2. Text of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1978, at:
  3. "One-Third of Americans Believe the Bible Is Literally True," Gallup, Inc., 2007-MAY-25, at:
  4. Jeffrey M. Jones, "In U.S., 3 in 10 Say They Take the Bible Literally," Gallup, 2011-JUL-08, at:
  5. The question and multiple responses can be seen on the Quora web site at:

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Copyright 1997 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Latest update: 2018-AUG-22

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