Does it even make sense for the Bible to be Strictly Inerrant?

Link to the “Ipsissima …” Article of the TheoPedia

Ipsissima Vox vs. Ipsissima Verba
Ipsissima Vox is a Latin expression meaning “the very voice”, and describes the view that the New Testament Gospel-accounts capture the concepts that Jesus expressed, but not exact words. Ipsissima Vox is contrasted with Ispissima Verba, meaning “the very words”.

Arguments for Ipsissima Vox [instead of Ipsissima Verba, or “His Voice” versus “His Words”]
1.Jesus probably spoke mostly Aramaic, so most of what we have recorded in the gospels is already a translation.
2.Jesus probably spent hours teaching, yet most of the didactic passages in the gospels take mere minutes to read.
3.The gospel writers do not agree word-for-word in many parallel passages, but rather thought-for-thought.

Arguments against Ipsissima Vox [but for Ipsissima Verba]
1.It opens the door for doubt in the doctrines of the inerrancy, sufficiency, and clarity of Scripture.
2.It questions the ability of the Holy Spirit to enable the gospel writers to recall the words of Jesus.
3.It fails to account for Luke’s assertion in Luke 1:4 (“…that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” ESV) and Jesus’ claim in John 14:26 (“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” ESV)

Proponents of Ipsissima Vox
•Daniel Wallace (a paper presented at the 1999 annual ETS meeting presented titled “An Apologia for a Broad View of Ipsissima Vox” - online text unavailable)

•Grant Osborne

•Darrell Bock

Critics of Ipsissima Vox
•Donald E. Green
•Robert N. Wilkin
•John W. Montgomery

•“The Words of Jesus in the Gospels: Live, Jive, or Memorex?” by Darrell Bock in Jesus Under Fire,

eds. Michael Wilkins

and J.P. Moreland (Zondervan, 1995)

ISBN 0310211395

External links
•Historical Criticism And The Evangelical, by Grant Osborne (JETS)

•Evangelicals and Ipsissima Vox (PDF), by Donald Green

•Toward a Narrow View of Ipsissima Vox, by Robert Wilkin

•Evangelicals and Biblical Criticism: The Continuing Saga, by John Montgomery

•Old Testament
◦Historicity of the Old Testament

•New Testament
◦Historicity of New Testament

•Development of the canon








•Theological interpretation of Scripture

•Illumination of the Holy Spirit

•Exegetical fallacies

•New Testament use of the Old Testament

•Expository preaching


•Scripture alone

•Biblical criticism

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Biblical Inerrancy’s Myth-Making Machine, Unveiled
[see link at bottom]

Proponents of Biblical Inerrancy perpetuate a myth that the Church has always declared the Bible to be error-free, including minute details of science and history. History tells us a different story, that Biblical Inerrancy is a recent phenomena that arose to prominence symbiotically with Dispensationalism and Fundamentalism in the USA and UK. For each quotation the Biblical Inerrancy myth produces from the millions upon millions of words written by Church Fathers, a counter-quotation may be produced that demonstrates that the Biblical Inerrancy was an idea foreign to the world of the Scripture and the Church Fathers. Unveiling this myth demonstrates that Biblical Inerrancy originated in early 19th century, was not fully formal until the Battle for the Bible in 1970’s. If we listen to History, we are able to demythologize the myth-making machinery of Biblical Inerrancy and unveil this seventh Error of Inerrancy.

In this article I will demythologize the Biblical Inerrancy myth by describing inerrancy’s origin, development and rise to prominence through

  1. an introduction to the Rogers/McKim Proposal,
  2. reviewing reactions to it by John Woodbridge,
  3. and then discussing contemporary responses to Woodbridge by Mark A. Noll,
  4. and by George Marsden.

Rogers/McKim Proposal
The best primer on the history of Biblical Inerrancy is Jack B. Rogers’ and Donald K. McKim’s The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach (1979). The “Rogers/McKim Proposal” in nuce implicates Francis Turretin for deviating from Reformer’s doctrine of inspiration; his Swiss Protestant Scholasticism replaced faith with reason, as he emphasized a rationalistic interpretation of the Bible in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology.

[The Year 1834: Etymologically, the English word “inerrancy” originated in the early 19th century (not the 1st century), and the first known use of “inerrancy” according to Webster is 1834 CE [1]. The term “inerrancy” wasn’t widely used to describe the inspiration of the Bible until old Princeton popularized the mechanical dictation theories of inspiration of B.B. Warfield and Charles Hodge (circa 1900).]

[Who or What is Old Princeton?]
Old Princeton capitalized on Turretin’s rationalism, by using his Institutes as their primary textbook for all students, and this provided a foundation for B.B. Warfield’s and Charles Hodge’s mechanical theories of inspiration that have spread throughout Evangelicalism to this day. The Protestant Church outside the auspices of Turretin and old Princeton were not encumbered by Biblical Inerrancy (most notably the Continental Reformers such as Herman Bavinck through G.C. Berkouwer).

Rogers and McKim explain the central idea of their thesis as follows:
A century after Calvin’s death, the chair of theology in Geneva was occupied by Francis Turretin (1632-1687). In that interval of one hundred years Reformed Protestants had reacted to Catholic criticism and the new science, and the reigning theological method was closer to that of a Counter-Reformation interpretation of Thomas Aquinas than to that of Calvin.

A doctrine of Scripture that made the Bible a formal principle rather than a living witness had been gradually developed. Turretin further solidified this shift of emphasis from the content to the form of words of Scripture as the source of its authority. He treated the forms of words of Scripture as supernatural and increasingly divorced the text of the Bible from the attention of scholarship and an application to life.

In the generation immediately following Francis Turretin in Geneva, his son, Jean-Alphonse Turretin (1648-1737) led a revolt against scholastic theology that opened the doors to liberalism.

Francis Turretin’s theology was to be revived, however, and have its greatest influence in America during the era of the old Princeton theology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At Princeton, further refinements were made in the scholastic doctrine of Scripture, but the foundation had been solidly laid by Turretin. [2]

A sample proof for the Rogers/McKim Proposal is the 1895 essay by Thomas Lindsay’s 1895 essay “The Doctrince of Scripture: The Reformers and the Princeton School” (PDF) that criticized Old Princeton for deviating from the Reformers Doctrine of Inspiration.

The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (i.e. The Rogers/McKim Proposal) is an excellent book that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the history Biblical Inerrancy. It produced a plethora of counter-quotations to the Biblical Inerrancy myth’s one-sided selective reading of Church History and it includes discussions on secondary discussions, such as the origin of the word “Inerrancy” and what the Church Father’s meant when they said that the “Bible doesn’t error” (e.g. they meant that the Bible doesn’t deceive us and is truthful, and didn’t mean it was precise in all scientific and historical details).


[^1] “Inerrancy.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.
[^2] Rogers, Jack Bartlett., and Donald K. McKim. The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979. 172. Print.
[^3] Noll, Mark A. Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986. 218. Print.
[^4] Marsden, George. “Everyone One’s Own Interpreter? The Bible, Science, and Authority in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America.”
The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History. Comp. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll. New York: Oxford UP, 1982. 97n26. Print.
[^5] Ibid. 99n36.

You might be interested to check out Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (which came out in a NEW EDITION immediately after I finished the first edition… Job is my patron saint) so far as the above connects to gospels studies.

I think Job has a lot to teach - - with its reference to the firmament as like a molten-metal mirror.
And it’s references to storehouses to Hail and Snow that Yahweh has orbiting the planet.

I was more trying to make a joke comparing the pain of my 1st world problem (reading a 600-ish page book only for an updated version to come out immediately after I finished thus demanding a re-read) to the deep sufferings of Job. But yes. The story of Job has many lessons for us to learn. Including teaching us about Deus Absconditus (God as he absconds), Deus Revelatus (as he has revealed himself), questions of theodicy, and reliance on a Redeemer to settle all the unsettle-able; to resolve the unresolvable; to establish righteousness where there apparently is none; to bring God and his will into harmony with his chosen people. But we’re off topic! Bauckham is a good source when it comes to understanding the reliability of the Gospel texts.


I would love to see a wide variety of Christians engage your OP question here. I well remember the emphasis on inerrancy in my first systematic theology class. At the time it never occurred to me that (1) the extreme forms of the doctrine were relatively new/modern; (2) restricting “full” inerrancy to the original autographs which haven’t existed for many centuries provides a glaring loophole.

This was just one of many areas of my theology where tradition dictated my thinking. Today, I still struggle with how blind I tended to be about distinguishing what the Bible actually states from what my church traditions had dictated. I’ve often wondered how I should teach young people to critique and weigh everything they are taught. Even at my age I discover tradition-based conclusions in my thinking which I can hardly believe I never paused to consider.


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