Was Jesus Inerrant?

A few months back I was embroiled in a rather lengthy discussion on the inerrancy of scripture vs. the progressive view of scripture on my blog. It basically ended up being a platform for one individual’s “orthodox” view that scripture HAD to be inerrant in order to be of value. As I tried to peel back the problems inherent to this thinking, he finally asked me if I believed Jesus had to have been inerrant? It’s a good question and reflects the struggle the early church had with understanding who Jesus was. There was not a unanimous consensus for half a millennia. Was Jesus infallible? Does Jesus claim to be? Honestly, I don’t know. Nothing really leads me to believe he was or by necessity needed to be. His argument on inerrancy of scripture, and now, Jesus himself, hinged on the belief that one cannot have certainty of faith without an inerrant text, or at least an inerrant leader…at least that is my understanding of the way the discussion began. The implication of his reasoning is that one cannot have “absolute truth” without an inerrant source. I find that not to be the case at all and I would question the definition of “faith” implied here. Is inerrancy necessary for conveying truth? I don’t think so. As I have already explained, we learns truths all the time from errant sources. It is part and parcel of the human condition.

We haven’t delved into the historical-critical method of scripture study, nor have I wanted to because I think the discussion was getting over long, and getting nowhere, but we must realize when theologians like Wayne Grudem talk about inerrancy of scripture they mean “that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” In other words, we do not have in our possession any “original” manuscripts, yet the claim of inerrancy only applies to the original documents. I wonder what an inerrant version of our Bibles would look like. What would have to be rewritten, what would be dropped off? What passages are missing, etc.? So, in lieu of actually possessing an inerrant text, we are in reality forced to make due with something that, contains not a few problems. Does the fact that we do not have an inerrant Bible prohibit us from having faith in God or Jesus? People have been getting by for centuries without one just fine.

Now things do get problematic when Grudem and others claim that the original mss were inerrant, yet tell us the compiled Greek and Hebrew texts we now have are a 99% accurate reflection of the original inerrant texts. I say problematic, because scholarship over the last 3 centuries has uncovered many problems and contradictions within the mss’s. These are commonly known and most seminarians will encounter them in their first year of school. This is where I find Grudem, Piper, Hodges and others to be dishonest. They were and are aware of the difficulties found within scripture, yet refuse to honestly acknowledge them, instead going to great lengths to excuse, minimize or attempt to harmonize them. In the process they are giving us something different from the Bible we do have. And all in an effort to bolster a hypothetical principal rather than the truth. Believing the Bible “has to be inerrant” does not make it so. I would also wonder why, if an inerrant text was so important to having faith, why God did not preserve an inerrant text for us. You need to realize that God breathing himself into something does not make it inerrant. He breathed into Adam, and he was anything but perfect.

As to Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross, my friend has provided only two basic alternatives, again falling back on the “all true or nothing is true” argument. Either Jesus had infallible, absolute knowledge of heaven, or he knew nothing: just making a wild guess, hoping for the best. In his scenario, Jesus had to have “special, absolute knowledge of truth, something beyond how mere humans learn truth, i.e., parents, schooling, life experiences observations and spiritual encounters. No, without an inerrant, absolute knowledge of eternal truths, for him, basically Jesus has nothing to offer. He’s no better than any other peddler of religion.

Which brings up an interesting aspect of his Biblical ontology: Either the Bible is all true, or it is basically worthless as a reliable guide to right relationship with God.

“As a human product, the Bible is not “absolute truth” or “God’s revealed truth,” but relative and culturally conditioned. To many, “relative” and “culturally conditioned” mean something inferior, even negative. But “relative” means “related”: the Bible is related to their time and place. So also “culturally conditioned” means that the Bible uses the language and concepts of the cultures in which it took shape. To use a nonbiblical example, the Nicene Creed uses the language of fourth-century Hellenistic philosophy to express the convictions that mattered most to the Christians who framed it. It is not a set of absolute truths, but tells us how they saw things. So also the Bible tells us how our spiritual ancestors saw things—not how God sees things.”

— Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity

What modern evangelical theology does is straightjacket God with an inerrant Bible. In a sense, the Bible is above God, he is beholding to it and bound by it. But I believe God to be bigger than the Bible. I believe Jesus’ reinterpretation of scripture and Paul’s selective quoting (leaving out some very negative stuff in his quest to include the Gentiles) aligns with this belief. The quest for an inerrant Jesus or an inerrant text, mirrors the old heresy of Docetism, that Jesus only appeared to be human, that humanity is of a lower plane of existence and that Jesus as spirit existed above mere flesh.

Just how human Jesus was is best left for a future discussion. Peace.

Link to previous discussion on inerrancy:
https://weseeinamirrordarkly.com/2017/11/04/the-bible-tells-me-so-so-whats-with-pete-enns-and-progressive-christians-anyway/

9 thoughts on “Was Jesus Inerrant?

  1. As you may already know what Jesus forbids with regard to, for example, homosexuality works just great for some  people but apparently not for others. It’s not up to us to judge. Iho be friends with everyone if you can. 

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  2. //Christians often reverse the two.// cultural conditioning or selective quoting? ‘Forgive them father they know not what they do’ is maybe a way to ultimately turn it over to a higher authority & let it rest there. I anticipate more light about this!

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    • “Turn it over to a higher authority.” …so hard to do, isn’t it? I constantly fight a battle within myself to remember that the “imago dei” exists in all of us. No one is all bad. We are all conditioned by our tribe, our peer group, and it is ever so hard to step into another’s shoes and much easier to just judge them. I was dealing with a group of rather hateful evangelicals on the British Premier site. One of them said one of the main reasons we have the Holy Spirit was so we could rightfully judge people! And here I thought the Holy Spirit’s job was to convict us of our OWN sin. Silly me. That being said, we can know a tree by its fruit. I pray that evangelicalism gets back on track and that its leadership repents, but I suspect we are seeing the end of a movement that has lost its way. Hopefully something more Christlike will arise form the ashes.

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  3. What comes to my mind now:
    To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

    I don’t like that word righteousness I have substituted blamelessness for it. found that a conscience that is clear is the best sleeping pill!!

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  4. //In the 60’s I watched Man from UNCLE and I Spy.//
    IMHO if you liked them you might like danger man. There’s a lot of the series up on
    YouTube for free now.
    The reason for my reference is that DM has a way of not letting bullying & BS inside him. He’s an example of someone who has responsibility during a war I think. The rules were a bit different then. He’s very good at what he does! Good actions /actor(s). Entertainment shapes the land.

    The intentional cultivation of a criminal class
    The future lit by brightly burning bridges
    Justice fully clothed to hide the heart of glass
    That shatters in a thousand Ruby Ridges
    And everywhere the good prepare for perpetual war
    And let their weapons shape the plan
    The way the hammer shapes the hand

    Casino Nation – Jackson Browne (2001)

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