Celebrating Inerrancy--Alleged Errors and Discrepancies in the Bible


Come this October, evangelicals like me will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  The group of conservative scholars and pastors who penned and signed the important document produced a book in 1980 simply entitled "Inerrancy."  I have broken down the 1st few chapters, which demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that both Jesus and the Apostles quoted Scripture as the very words of God that are perfect and authoritative. Today, I take a look at supposed errors and discrepancies in the Bible from the chapter written by the late Dr. Gleason Archer. 

Dr. Archer was the perfect person to take on the subject as he had made inerrancy a staple of his academic career.  He would go on to author the book "The Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties" (1982), which every pastor should have in his library.  It is the same book that Rachel Held Evans simply dismissed without analysis in her recent work.

For example, one of the most cited "discrepancies" in Scripture is the apparent difference between 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18.  They read as follows:

And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. (2 Sam. 10:18 ESV). 

And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death also Shophach the commander of their army. (2 Chronicles 19:18 ESV).

Archer points out that this is an obvious copyist error and one that is easy to make (700 versus 7000).  Even one of my seminary Old Testament professors, who was not an evangelical, quickly responded to my question about these texts with the brief, "assuming it was the same battle, anyone who has studied it recognizes that's a simple error made by one of the later scribes who copied it and given how it was written, it is easy to see why."

Evangelicals have always held that inerrancy only applies to the original text of Scripture, not to later copyists.  We do not possess the originals (and I'll argue why God didn't preserve them at a later date).  Now, this sounds like a cop out to skeptics yet the claim that the original texts are inerrant flow logically from the argument as a whole (stick with me).  

Also, according to other scholars who have studied the texts, it easy to see why one author used the term calvary and the other foot soldiers as it was common for warriors to fight both on horseback and on foot (that carried on through the American Civil War).     

Archer points out many other examples that are worth your time and attention but I wanted to stick with the one that is typically cited by those who dismiss inerrancy (and, as I pointed out in my last post on the subject, dismiss Jesus and the Apostles as well!).  Other apologists have tackled these verses with other possible harmonizations but this was Archer's take.  

It still amazes me how many professed Christians outside of the evangelical camp seem to assume that these apparent discrepancies have never been addressed by scholars.  They quote a verse or two and stand back like, "take that!" When I respond with possible solutions, they tend to just shrug their shoulders and move on.  Why do they desire that God's Word not be inerrant? Because they have an agenda (again, one of my non-Evangelical seminary profs agreed with this as well) but we'll save that for a later time.  Tune back in tomorrow for my initial take on the social justice dust up between Christians.  Until then, God bless.