Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Can we trust the Bible?

David Blevins and I have decided to read a chapter of Grudem's Systematic Theology a week (or perhaps one every two weeks).  This week we chose chapter five, 'The Inerrancy of Scripture.'  Grudem writes:
... for over 99 percent of the words of the Bible, we know what the original manuscript said.  Even for many of the verses where there are textual variants (that is, different words in different ancient copies of the same verse), the correct decision is often quite clear, and there are really very few places where the textual variant is both difficult to evaluate and significant in determining the meaning.  In the small percentage of cases where there is uncertainty about what the original text said, the general sense of the sentence is usually quite clear from the context.  (One does not have to be a Hebrew or Greek scholar to know where these variants are, because all modern English translations indicate them in marginal notes with words such as "some ancient manuscripts read ..." or "other ancient authorities add ..."
What if someone claims that there are errors in the Bible?  Grudem says we should ask the person who says this to point to them.  'It is surprising how frequently one finds that this objection is made by people who have little or no idea where the specific errors [allegedly] are, but who believe  there are errors because others have told them so.'  Grudem does admit that there are some 'problem texts' but points out that 'it is surprising how often it turns out that a careful reading just of the English text of the passage in question will bring to light one or more possible solutions to the difficulty.'  He also suggests consulting commentaries that help give possible solutions to texts which may seem problematic.  Finally, he suggests that we adopt a historical perspective:
The Bible in its entirety is over 1,900 years old, and the alleged "problem texts" have been there all along.   Yet throughout the history of the church there has been a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture ... Moreover, for these hundreds of years highly competent biblical scholars have read and studied these problem texts and still have no difficulty in holding to inerrancy. 

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