The Inerrancy and Historicity of Genesis 1-3, Part 1
Editor’s Note: In this four-part series on “The Inerrancy and Historicity of Genesis 1-3,” Dr. John Yeo will examine:
- What is Biblical Inerrancy?
- What is the Literary Genre of Genesis 1-3?
- How Should I Interpret Genesis 1-3?
- Is Genesis 1-3 Historically True?
What is Biblical Inerrancy?
Webster’s Dictionary defines “Inerrancy” as: “exception from error.” It defines “infallible” as “1: incapable of error. 2: not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint. 3. Incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals.” In addition, the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” notes in Article 12: “WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.” According to the same document, divine inspiration pertains only to the original autographs of Scripture (Article 10) and that the Bible’s inerrancy is directly related to its divine inspiration (Article 15).
In Genesis 3:1, the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say … ?” The devil from the outset of creation has attempted to deceive God’s people and to twist His Holy Word. The doctrine of inerrancy—although the word itself is not found in the Bible —has been understood to be an orthodox biblical teaching due to the Scripture’s self-attestation concerning its own veracity. Biblical inerrancy, therefore, is an important doctrine because it safeguards the canonical Scriptures from those who would say that the Bible is only a human product that is “like any other book” full of errors and mythological elements. In contradistinction, the Bible affirms its own truthfulness. The well-respected “Lion of Old Princeton,” B.B. Warfield, was accurate when he pointed out, “[What] Scripture says, God says.” How is this so? Key passages in the Bible reveal this vital truth:
“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NASB)
- Note that God says that He would raise a prophet and put His words in his mouth. The words that the prophet speaks carry the full weight and authority as if God had spoken them Himself. This description regarding the “office of the prophet” reveals that the prophet was to be the depository of divine revelation. In other words, if the prophet sent by God spoke or wrote, that authoritative word would be binding upon the consciences of its hearers and equivalent to canonical Scripture.
“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2 NASB)
- The words God inspired Moses, the Prophet, to speak and write were considered covenantal words, i.e., canonical. As a result, they were not to be tampered with because they had their origin from the very mouth of God.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6 NASB)
- Notice that the word translated “tested” by the NASB is actually the word meaning “to refine” in the Hebrew MT text just as a goldsmith or silversmith would burn off the dross only to reveal the pure nature of the precious metal. The verse may be translated, “Every word of God is pure” (e.g., see the NKJV and Tanakh [Jewish Publication Society] translations). Notice that the warning to add to the canonical Word of God is also reiterated as in Deuteronomy 4:2.
“The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” (Psalm 119:160 NASB)
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NASB)
- These two verses declare the veracity of Scripture because they come from God. Note that Jesus Himself in John 17:17 equates the Word of God to truth itself.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)
- There is a clear “cause and effect” relationship in these two very important verses. The “cause” is what we’ve already pointed out: Scripture is divinely inspired by God. The “effect” is seen in the way the Scriptures may be applied: “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” In sum, it is clear that the Apostle Paul affirmed the “God breathed-out” quality of “all Scripture” in order that it might serve as the source of all our Christian faith and practice.
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made b y an act of human will, but men moved b y the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB)
- The Apostle Peter could not have been any clearer: Scripture did not originate in the mind of man, but in God. The Holy Spirit “moved” the writers of Scripture to communicate exactly what He wanted and preserved them from error at the same time (e.g., Proverbs 30:5: “Every Word of God is pure….”).
The force of the biblical passages above proves the logic and validity of the doctrine of inerrancy. In other words, if God had truly inspired the Prophet, Moses, to write on a scroll (as it says in Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9, 22) then it would be more than rational to believe that He could have and would have prevented Moses from mixing error into His Word and to provide exactly what He wanted Moses to record. Thus, the doctrine of inerrancy is not simply a teaching that has been foisted onto the Bible in order to protect it. The Bible declares its own inerrant and authoritative quality so that the people of God might place their full trust in His Word and because His Word is the objective truth of God.