Inspiration, Criticism, and Fallacious Understanding

Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World Modern critics of Scripture argue that since we only have copies of the words God inspired, we don’t have God’s actual and inspired word.  Bart Ehrman said it like this: “If God really wanted people to have his actual words, surely he would have miraculously preserved those words, just as he had miraculously inspired them in the first place.  Given that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion must be that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them” (Misquoting Jesus, p. 211).

The book Truth Matters deals with this criticism quite well.  Here’s one part of the response to the critics’ argument:

“…Peter Williams has said, ‘Words do not lose inspiration by being copied.’  So if by working through the wide assortment of surviving manuscripts, we can reasonably deduce that what we’re looking at in our Bibles are genuine replicas and translations of the original sources, then why are these words so suspiciously second-rate, just because God didn’t keep the first ones – the first parchments – under glass in the archives?”

“In fact, Bart Ehrman’s statement quoted above about the inspiration of the Bible (or lack thereof) is based on a fallacious understanding of the doctrine of inspiration.  Christians believe that the words written in the original autographs were inspired, not the material entity (the specific piece of papyrus or parchment).  Therefore, we don’t need the original manuscript in order to have the original words.

“Again, a textual critic can certainly prove the point that particular manuscripts have been altered in a number of places.  Anyone worth his scholarly salt would agree.  But no way can they demonstrate how, among the thousands of manuscripts we can study and research and access through our biblical software, the original words of Scripture have utterly vanished.  Gone.”

“On the one hand the people who cling to them (the arguments for a corrupt text) insist that nobody can know for sure what was actually contained in the original autographs.  ‘Show me one,’ they say, ‘and then we’ll talk.’  But then they confidently argue how these numerous variants – this one, that one, and the other one – couldn’t possibly be original to the text.  Well, how can they know this to be true if they don’t have any idea what the original said?  How do we know a watch is not a Rolex unless we know what a Rolex is – and believe that Rolex watches exist?  Talk about inconsistencies….”

Well said!  Reminds me of Romans 1:18ff.

Bock, Chatraw, and Kostenberger, Truth Matters, p. 131-132.

shane lems

1 thought on “Inspiration, Criticism, and Fallacious Understanding”

  1. Does it not depend on what kind of God you bring into the discussion? If he is a God of revelation that you need to find the balance to the tension of good and evil and continue to rede cover in the nexus of embodied life and in all things cultural. If he is a god of feelings than you have scripted your own god and the answers are clear because they fit the mould. If it is revelation you need to wonder when God says ” I will tear down and I will build up ” and get on your knees. The text hits home when it is a poem that haunts good and evil from any resting place other than living the mystery and naming the paradox to identity its message today.


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