Inerrant Autographa

The question of whether the Bible in the original manuscripts (autographa) is without error is an important one, especially to Christians.  This concept is known as the inerrancy of the autographa.  To understand this, this essay will attempt to discuss what is meant by inerrancy, why some think the Bible is inerrant, and what it might mean if the Bible in its original form is not inerrant.

                First let us review what is meant by ‘inerrant.’ The WWWebster Dictionary defines the word as “free from error.”  Charles Ryrie defines inerrancy, when discussing the Bible, as meaning “that the Bible tells the truth, which may include approximations, free quotations, the language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as these do not contradict” (Ryrie, p. 535). As Thiessen puts it, “inerrancy extends to all of Scripture and is not limited to certain teachings of Scripture” (p. 63).

                The first question that needs to be answered regards the reason some might believe the Bible to be without error in the original manuscripts.  This article will present two reasons for this.  First, as Dr. Wilber Dayton writes, “a finite God would, at best, produce a limited and faulty Scripture.”  An alternate way of looking at this would be to say that if one believes in a God who is omniscient and infallible, then it logically follows that what ever ways God chose to reveal himself would be without error.  While the Bible records how God has chosen to reveal Himself to man in the past, it also records how He will interact with, and reveal Himself to, man in the future.   Throughout the Old Testament, there are many examples of God revealing Himself to man, while at the same time promising how it would be in times to come.  An example of this is found in Genesis 3, where God showed that He expected His commands to be obeyed, how He punished them for disobeying, and how He covered their sins.  While He did all that, He also prophesied that seed from Eve would crush the serpent (believed by many to be Satan).  All this laid the groundwork for how things would be in the future for mankind, including how mankind could be reunited with God.

The second reason the Bible is thought to be inerrant is that Bible itself teaches about its own inerrancy.  In Mat 19:4-6, Jesus quoted Gen 1:27,2:24 in answer to a question regarding divorce. ‘”Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,’ (Gen 1:27) and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Gen 2:24)?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”’ By quoting the Pentateuch, Jesus showed He believed it to be factual and true.  Jesus claimed to be the Christ, as recorded in Mark 14:61-62 and John 4:25-26.  In John 10:36, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and in Mat 28:19, Jesus told His disciples to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, effectively placing the three on an equal plane. Jesus also told His disciples, in Luke 10:16a, “he who listens to you listens to me.”  From this we see that Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity, for whom His disciples spoke. The Apostle John wrote that he had written his book so the reader may know the truth (John 22:24).  In John 10:35, Jesus said the ‘Scripture can not be broken.’  The Apostle Peter called Paul’s writings Scripture, comparing them to the ‘other Scripture’ in 2 Peter 3:15-16.  Paul stated in 1 Tim 5:18 that he quoted from Scripture when he quoted from the Old Testament (Duet. 25:4) and the Gospels (Mat 10:10, Luke 10:7).  By doing so, he indicated he thought the Gospels were “Scripture.” Peter said in 2 Peter 1:20-21 that ‘no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (Thompson).

                Now that we have addressed why the Bible is thought to be without error, let us look into what it would mean if the Bible were not inerrant.  Jesus Christ spoke of Adam and Eve as factual (Mat 19:5), Jonah as factual (Mat 12:31), and Noah and the Great Flood as factual (Mat 24:38). Jesus also accepted the Exodus from Egypt where all the tribes of Israel ate manna for forty years as fact (John 6:49). These examples show four different events that can only be understood as fact if God intervened; but Jesus spoke of them as factual, historical, events.  This only becomes a problem in the question of inerrancy if Jesus was wrong.  But as Gleason L. Archer wrote in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, “To all professing Christians, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is final and supreme. If in any of His views or teachings as set forth in the New Testament He was guilty of error or mistake, He cannot be our divine Savior; and all Christianity is a delusion and a hoax” (p. 20).  The reason He could not be our Savior is that it took someone who was both perfect God and man to die for our sins to provide a way for our salvation.  If Jesus were in error, then he can not be perfect, and so could not be our Savior, which would indeed make Christianity a hoax.

                The Neo-orthodox approach to Scripture is that if a certain portion of the Bible ‘speaks’ to the reader, then that portion of the Bible becomes the Word of God. But until that time, it is simply the word of man, which may or may nor become the Word of God.  As Thompson wrote, “This view of the Bible tends to be subjective, allowing those who hold it to deny the validity of passages through which they themselves happen not to have had an ‘encounter.’”

                There are some that say, “the goal of inspiration is to communicate life and knowledge…. In other words, since Jesus Christ and salvation are the heart of Scriptures, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy need concern itself only with those things in the Bible which relate directly to them” (Thompson).  One problem with this position is that the individual is again deciding which parts of the Bible he will believe, and thus apply to himself.  Another issue involved with this position is that of integrity. As Archer puts it, “he who affirms that a statement is true because the Bible affirms it, can do so with integrity only if he takes the position that whatever the Bible teaches is necessarily true. Otherwise, he must always append to his proclamation of the biblical message the following additional corroboration: ‘In this particular case, we are warranted in believing what the Bible says — even though it may occasionally be mistaken in matters of history or science – because it does not appear to contravene the findings of modern scientific or historical knowledge….’  It is a matter of self-contradiction for a partial-inerrantist to hold that in matters of history and science the Bible may err and yet for him to expound any text from the Scripture as having authority in its own right.”  Archer goes on to say, “if the biblical record can be proved fallible in areas of fact that can be verified, then it is hardly to be trusted in areas where it cannot be tested. As a witness to God, the Bible would be discredited as untrustworthy.  What solid truth it may contain would be left as a matter of mere conjecture, subject to intuition of canons of likelihood of each individual” (p. 23).  Each person would have his own idea of what books, or portions of books were true or not.  The Bible would not be able to be considered a standard of conduct, faith, or truth, causing doctrinal error to enter into what is taught in the church.  Since the Bible would not be able to be used to identify sin, the concept of sin would begin to disappear.  As Thompson wrote, “a denial of the objective authority of Scriptures opens the floodgates, allowing paganism, impurity, and pandemonium to inundate society.” 

                Thus we have seen that the Bible itself teaches inerrancy.   We have also reviewed different arguments against the inerrancy of the Bible, and seen how they lead to a fall in Truth and ultimately, society.  To believe the Bible is inerrant takes faith, but certainly no more faith than to believe a man who died 2000 years ago can reconcile you to God, giving eternal life. But if one is a Christian, this is exactly what one believes, if one is to have a right relationship with Him.




Dayton, W.T. (1968, Spring). “Theology and Biblical Inerrancy.” The Wesleyan Theological Journal VOL. 3 NO. 1. [on-line]. Available:

Archer, G.L. (1982). “Introduction: The Importance of Biblical Inerrancy.” Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (pp19-44). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Corporation.

Ryrie, C. C. (1997). Basic Theology. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor Publishing.

                Thiessen, H.C. (1949, 1977, 1979).  Lectures in Systematic Theology.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

                Thompson, W.R.(1968, Spring). “Facing Objections Raised Against Biblical Inerrancy.” Wesleyan Theological Journal VOL. 3 NO. 1. [on-line]. Available:

WWWebster Dictionary. (1996). Merriam-Webster, Inc. [on-line] Available:


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