I am continuing to count down to the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I am doing so by looking at the collection of scholarly articles from that meeting collected in the book Inerrancy, which was published in 1980. The late Dr. Greg Bahnsen penned the article on inerrancy and the original manuscripts.
The assertion by evangelicals that inerrancy only applies to the original manuscripts often draws howls of protests from opponents. I can confidently state, however, that most of those who deny inerrancy have rarely interacted with the pertinent scholarship on the issue.
Inerrantists, like myself, hold the position for a number of reasons: (1) the Bible itself claims to be the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16) and is quoted as such by Jesus, His Apostles and other inspired authors (by one count 1600 times! see P. 41 of “Inerrancy”); (2) textual studies show such reverence for both the Old and New Testaments that recognized copyist errors are minimal (99.5% of NT texts are in agreement with no variations among “central” passages); and (3) Early church fathers also treat Scripture as authoritative without qualification.
The late Dr. Carl F.H. Henry wrote in his magnum opus “God, Revelation & Authority”, “On the basis of all the existing early testimony, it is clear that the generation which possessed the apostolic autographs viewed them as the veritable Word of God. The fact of inerrant autographs is both theoretically and practically important. If the originals were errant, then textual criticism would expect to give us not more truthful readings but only more ancient ones. (Volume IV, 208-209).”
Opponents often object that if the Bible is the very Word of God then He would have preserved the original autographs for the church. Yet, as Scripture and history demonstrate, such a move poses obvious dangers such as the veneration of such objects to the point of idolatry.
Thus, evangelicals hold to the doctrine of inerrancy because it follows from the clear actions of Christ, His Apostles, other inspired authors and the early church. Furthermore, it is buttressed by the discipline of textual criticism. We are blessed to have the Word of God and should study it with the respect it deserves.