Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, And Current OT Scholarship -- By: Todd S. Beall

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 28:1 (Winter 2015)
Article: Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, And Current OT Scholarship
Author: Todd S. Beall

Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, And Current OT Scholarship

Todd S. Beall

Back in the mid-1970s when I was in seminary, I decided to major in OT for one main reason: while there seemed to me to be a plethora of excellent evangelical NT commentaries, there was a relative dearth of commentaries on the OT from an evangelical perspective. I thought at that time that there was a greater need for evangelical scholars in the OT than in the NT. In the last 40 years that picture has decidedly changed. There is now an abundance of OT commentaries (both single volumes and series) written by evangelical scholars. While that is heartening, there is another trend in OT evangelical scholarship that I find quite troubling. It is my contention that over the past 40 years there has been a marked difference in the approach of evangelical biblical scholars towards the text of Scripture and issues of inerrancy. And that seems to be especially true in the field of OT studies.

When I began teaching in 1977,1 I was well aware of the critical approach to the OT: Israel’s religion gradually evolved from polytheism to monotheism; the Bible is the product of human authors whose writings were flawed and contradictory; and many of the OT biblical books (such as the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and Daniel) were not written by individual authors (Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel), but in fact were written over a period of many years in a collaborative process (with numerous expansions of the original text), with the final form culminating hundreds of years after the death of the purported author. Specific predictive prophecy was denied, with the biblical prophet simply a rather gifted man among men, but with no capacity to predict the future in a precise way. Furthermore, the NT writers often wrenched the OT out of its proper context, and simply appropriated the OT in any manner that they saw fit, without regard to the original meaning in the OT. In short, the difference between critical OT scholarship and evangelical OT scholarship was clear: critical scholars viewed the Bible as a whole (and the OT in particular) as a flawed work of human origin, while evangelical scholars viewed the entire Bible as God-breathed and inerrant.

This important distinction between evangelicalism and critical scholarship may be seen from the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. At that time there was a broad consensus among evangelicals concerning this issue, with over 300 evangelical leaders signing the statement. The Evangelical Theological Society doctrinal statement (“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs”) was reaffirmed in 2006, with the passage of a bylaw (Bylaw 12) that used the 1978...

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