Are There Errors in the Bible?

Albert Mohler just highlighted an important article by Greg Beale on inerrancy. The article appears in The Westminster Theological Journal and is titled “Can the Bible Be Completely Inspired by God and Yet Still Contain Errors? A Response to Some Recent ‘Evangelical’ Proposals.” Here’s the problem Beale seeks to address in this article:

Recent writers have especially questioned the traditional understanding of inerrancy. In particular, a central idea underlying inerrancy has been that since God is true and without error and, therefore, his oral word is true and without error, consequently, his word in Scripture is true and without error. This implication or theological inference that reasons from God’s flawless character to flawless Scripture has been challenged, and it has been argued that it is a logical deduction that is never made in the Bible. Accordingly, it is argued that though God, of course, is true and without error, he can, and indeed has, inspired all of Scripture in such a way that, nevertheless, the marks of human fallibility are woven into it. Thus, there are what we would consider to be “errors” in the biblical text, but God has inspired even those “errors” to form a part of his message to his people.

Beale interacts at length with A. T. B. McGowan’s book, The Divine Authenticity of Scripture and shows that the inerrancy of scripture is not merely a logical deduction from the inerrancy of God. The scripture itself makes the connection between God’s truthfulness and the truthfulness of His word. You can read the article here.

Greg Beale’s work on the doctrine of scripture has been a great service to the church. If you have not read his book The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Crossway, 2008), you should really check it out. This doctrine is up for grabs right now among many who call themselves evangelicals. Beale’s work will prepare you to think carefully through all the issues.

For a recent, general introduction to the doctrine of scripture, I would recommend to you Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (InterVarsity, 2010).


  • G. Kyle Essary

    I would also recommend “The Trustworthiness of God” ed. By Paul Helm and Carl Trueman. It has some great essays. Of course, (John) Wenham’s “Christ and the Bible,” and also Moises Silva’s famous essay on Calvinistic hermeneutics (particularly in how it argues that we cannot divorce our theology from our biblical studies).

  • Michael

    I’d add Carson’s Collected Writings on Scripture. And, hands down, God, Revelation and Authority, particularly volumes 3 and 4. If anyone has the time to invest in them.

    The debate seems to center on revelation, and how one associates the Word of God with the Scriptures.

  • formeratheist

    I enjoy reading the works of Bart D. Ehrman who is at the forefront of textual criticism and pointing out so called “errors” in God’s word. I find comfort in his arguments, because they cause me no concern at all. I think it is important for us to understand where the enemy is coming from and his tactics.

  • Scott

    “who call themselves evangelical”

    Is that line really necessary Denny? Some of us do think carefully through the issues and have the highest regard for God’s sacred Word. Yet, we come to slightly different conclusions. That you would throw around a line like this is careless and petulant.

  • Brent Hobbs

    I was only vaguely familiar with Beale’s work before a year ago or so. I had his Revelation commentary but hadn’t used it a whole lot since I have’t preached through Revelation yet. I saw some links from Justin Taylor, I believe, with some lectures he did and was tremendously impressed when I listened. I’m thankful for his work.

  • Andrew Lindsey

    Re: “Personally, I find the tent rather small and far too certain of itself.”

    -Then it seems that you wouldn’t want in it, nor have reason to be upset when Dr. Burk suggests your views exclude you from it.

    • Scott

      If you’re referring to American evangelicalism, then no, I don’t mind being excluded from it. However, evangelicalism is larger than the American manifestation. Maybe that tent is too large for some folks – but, I make room both for the more conservative American brethren & the more liberal (?) British brethren. My frustration stems from the conservative side which would exclude anyone that opposes a particularly rigid view of inerrancy.

  • RD

    The Bible contains errors. That is a fact. Some are nitnoid little things which reflect more of the ANE understanding of things. An example: Genesis 1:16 stating that God put the two “great lights” – the sun and the moon – in the sky. The moon, obviously, is not a light. That’s a factual error. Does it make a spiritual difference? No.

    There are historical errors in the Bible. The time line of Joshua’s raids through Canaan don’t match historical, archaeoligical evidence (Ai and Hazor and Jericho actually fell over the span of 1000 years). That’s a factual error. Does it make a spiritual difference? No.

    The Bible clearly has discrepancies. Luke’s gospel places Jesus’s birth sometime around 6 a.d. Matthew places his birth sometime around 5 b.c. The two accounts are not consistent. John’s gospel isn’t consistent with the other three gospels with regard to the actual day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Does it make a spiritual difference? No.

    There ARE, however, some discrepancies that do have greater theological impact, and to deny their presence in scripture is dishonest, I think. 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 are an example. There are others.

    The greater sadness, to me, is that inerrancy has become such a litmus test within the Church. It’s destructive. Within certain circles if a Christian views the Genesis account of creation as myth rather than scientific fact, the validity of that person’s Christianity and spiritual walk with God is questioned. I think this causes God a great deal of sadness.

  • samuel

    rd were does it say in genisis that both lights the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night were does it say both objects had with in them the means to generate their own light ? thats your interpretation private interpretation the moon reflects the light of the sun in its absence , the same as the church is not ment to have a thought comming and just rfflect the light of the son of god in his absence . there is not two lights my br there is only one kind of light thats gods word his light . only satan has a light thats diffrent, no wonder jesus said to the denomonations of his day if that light that be in you is darkness how great is that darkness why ? they think they have light .i hope you see its its by faith witch is revelation not reason .

  • samuel

    i like what st paul said if anyone preaches anything diffrent to what god gave him through the piller of fire let him be acursed with a curse , hes under a curse i dont care who it is . god came to paul and revealed the word to him paul said so and god backed his word up with might infallable proofs and devine vindication . how many of you have seen the piller of fire ? not one of you has one shred of vindication not a shred .to sput the hogwash that you do . you disbeleave just one word you are finished . read what happend in edan people . well god has just hidden it from the smart intellectual man hell never see it . heres the rub what knoweth a things of god except the spirit of god so your stuck then are you not did not say we knew but his spirit reavels the things of god to us thats his word the things of god . its by devine revelation watch this blessed art thou simom peter flech and blood did not reveal this two you but my father witch is in heaven , thats exactly what paul said as well i quoted abouve only the spirit knows the things of god and to whom ever he reveals himself two . so were are your phds and intellectual smart wisdom were is that at in the light of gods glorious word .

  • samuel

    is it not written oh you fools and slow of heart thats no revelation no word written in your hearts by the spirit , fools and slow of heart to beleave all all it said all that the prophets have spoken .

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.