Inerrancy and the Resurrection

The issue that had the greatest impact on my thinking about the resurrection was the argument for inerrancy. The inerrancy of the Bible is affirmed by the major defenders of the Christianity including William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and Norman Geisler. Members of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) must annually affirm their belief in inerrancy to maintain their membership (see here). If one is a Christian, it makes a great deal of sense to affirm this.

Let’s take the perspective of someone persuaded by several aspects of Dr. Craig’s version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. That is, they think that God is both very powerful and very smart (due to the fine tuning argument). God is even smarter the ancient author Euclid.

Now Euclid wrote a collection of 13 books known as the Elements. As far as I know every Theorem posited by Euclid is still believed to be true today. Even his placement of the “Parallel Postulate” into the category of postulates is accurate. Many believed that perhaps the Parallel postulate could be derived from his first four postulates, but it has been shown that his placement is correct. The only criticism I have heard is that there are some unstated postulates and undefined terms that he would need to explicate in order to be more rigorous. That said Euclid’s writing is a remarkable achievement for any non-divine human. I suppose I would say that Euclid’s thirteen books of the Elements are quite possibly inerrant.

Now God is even smarter than Euclid, so if He were to inspire a collection (or cannon) of books, it seems reasonable to expect that God could do an even better job than Euclid. If a collection of books were "God-breathed" I would expect them to reflect some aspects of his nature. Inerrancy seems to be one aspect of God-breathed books that a rational person may expect.

There is a great deal of support for this idea in the New Testament. Greg Koukl defends that premise very well here. Greg states that Jesus quoted the Old Testament as if it were from God himself. If Jesus is God, he would certainly be in a position to know. Jesus certainly seems to imply that God’s word is true in John 17:17.

Suppose that the truth seeker believes that a real resurrection from the dead is indicative of God’s work and endorsement. I think it is rational for such a person to believe the following premise is true: P1: If Jesus was raised from the dead, the Bible is inerrant.

Given a hypothetical premise "If A then B" two valid syllogisms can be formed.
Modus Pones:
P1:If A then B-If Jesus was raised from the dead, the Bible is inerrant
P2-a:      A    -Jesus was raised from the dead
C1:        B    -The Bible is inerrant

Modus Tollens:
P1:If A then B-If Jesus was raised from the dead, the Bible is inerrant
P2-b:    Not B    -The Bible contains errors
C2:      Not A    -Jesus was not raised from the dead

Thus one should not simultaneously believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that the Bible has an error in the originals manuscripts. Apparently, members of the ETS think the evidence for the Resurrection is strong enough, so they would affirm the conclusion C1.

However, the case for resurrection is complex at best. The argument for the resurrection is a historical one, and does not lead to a certain conclusion. There are scholars who take both positions, so the arguments may be hard for laymen to understand.

However, I think it is quite reasonable for someone to believe that the Bible contains at least one error. Consider 1 Chronicles 22:14 and 1 Kings 6:2: "With great pains I have provided for the house of the LORD, a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron without weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided" 1 Chronicles 22:14.

A talent is equal to about 75.5 lbs, cubit is equal to about 17.5 in, the density of silver is 0.379 lb/cu in, the density of gold is 0.692 lb/cu-in. The Bible report 100,000 talents (=7,550,000 lbs) of gold and 1,000,000 talents (=75,000,000 lbs) of silver.

It is estimated that by 1860 the world had produced only 40,000 lbs (regular not troy pounds) of gold (see here). This is far less than what the Bible reports for the temple. It is also estimated that by 600 BC the world’s total production of silver was 112,000,000 lbs (see here). It is implausible to think Israel would have the majority of the world’s silver. Even if the gold and silver were melted down, it would not fit into the temple. (To say nothing of the bronze, iron, timber, and stone).

It sure seems reasonable to think that the Biblical author was exaggerating the wealth of Solomon here. I suppose it is possible that a scribe made a copying error here, but is there any reason to think the scribe erred here? Normally when there are significant textual variants, bible translators indicate that. Further, if God wanted this book included in the cannon, wouldn’t He have helped to make sure that it was able to reliably reconstruct the markers of his message?

Anyway, the question of inerrancy appears relevant to the question of the fact of the resurrection. It seems reasonable to believe 1) the resurrection implies inerrancy and 2) the Bible contains errors. If both of these beliefs are reasonable, then the denial of the resurrection seems reasonable as well. In principle it is possible that the historical evidence is strong enough to overcome the belief in Biblical errors, but the evidence would have to be very strong. There are many “apparent” errors in the Bible. In subsequent posts, I will try to explain how I think one should go about weighing the evidence both for and against the resurrection, and the consequences of denying that inerrancy follows from the resurrection.
Editted 7/20: Changed 1 Chronicles 24:14 to 1 Chronicles 22:14


Anonymous said...

Come on inerrantists. Where are you now?

Anonymous said...

Hereis another site that argues for several errors in the Bible.

exbeliever said...

Constructive criticism:

I don't think your argument works the way it is written. There is no necessary connection between Jesus' resurrection and the inerrancy of the Bible.

It would be like someone arguing:

P1: If exbeliever is an athiest, then Wednesday is the first day of the week.
P2: It is not the case that Wednesday is the first day of the week.
C: Therefore exbeliever is not an atheist.

The argument makes no sense because there is no connection in the first premise.

I don't think it is effective, but a better argument might be:

P1a: God cannot lie.
P2a: Jesus is God.
C1a: Therefore, Jesus cannot lie.

P1b: Jesus cannot lie.
P2b: Jesus said the Bible is inerrant.
P3b: If the Bible is not inerrant then Jesus lied.
P4b: It is not the case that the Bible is inerrant.
C1b: Therefore, Jesus lied.
C2b: Therefore, Jesus is not God.

The problem with this argument is the same as the second problem of your original argument--an inerrantist will never buy your second premise. They will find some way, no matter how convoluted, to get around it. Whether it is by a copyist error, a miracle, or simply affirming an impossibility, they will not be convinced.

The strongest part of your argument is the reference to 1 Chronicles 22:14. If what you say is true, this presents a problem to the inerrantist. I've never heard of that one before, but that is really not my speciality.

For what it's worth.

Bill said...


I know that the premise does not necessarily follow. I had originally broken the argument into five hypothetical premises, which then resulted in my premise P1. I thought justifying each premise made the post too verbose. I had hoped that my link to Greg Koukl’s article would do some of the work for me for the purposes of this post. I tried to cover some justification not covered in his article. At this point I am just trying to give some justification premise P1 is justified.

However, keep in mind that most Christians I know believe that inerrancy follows from the resurrection. Why else would they hold to inerrancy? They obviously did not cross check all the myriad of factual/historical claims made in the Bible. They believe some series of propositions that entails my premise P1. Norman Geisler gave a much fuller argument than I did here in his books “Christian Apologetics” and “When Critics Ask.”

I can’t think of a justification for inerrancy that does not go through the resurrection. Denying P1 also results in several problems for Christians. I am going to go into what follows from they denial of P1. I partition my argument against Christianity into two parts, one where P1 is allowed, one where it is denied.

Regarding the biblical difficultly, my brother and I found a passing reference to those verses in a Skeptical Review article by Fred Titanich here. We did a quick google search to estimate how much gold there is in the world, and did a quick calculation to see the volume of the gold and silver.

beepbeepitsme said...

"De t’ings dat yo’ li’ble
To read in de Bible—
It ain’t necessarily so." Ira Gershwin