Is New Testament Inerrancy A New Testament Concept? A Traditional And Therefore Open-Minded Answer -- By: Armin D. Baum

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:2 (Jun 2014)
Article: Is New Testament Inerrancy A New Testament Concept? A Traditional And Therefore Open-Minded Answer
Author: Armin D. Baum


Is New Testament Inerrancy A New Testament Concept? A Traditional And Therefore Open-Minded Answer

Armin D. Baum*

* Armin D. Baum is Professor of NT at Freie Theologische Hochschule, Rathenaustraße 5-7, Geißen, Germany 35394.

The reason I put the question this way is the simple observation that the word “inerrancy” does not play any significant role in the NT. I know of just one possible exception in the teaching of Jesus. In his discussion with the Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus says: “You are in error (πλανᾶσθε), because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29 par. Mark 12:24, 27). In other words, the Sadducees would not have erred had they known the Scriptures which do not err, at least not in the section from Exod 3:6 and 15 which Jesus quotes.

Furthermore, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ever say or imply that the Scriptures can contain errors. According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus distinguished in his Bible between more important and less important sections,1 but he is not reported to have differentiated between biblical passages with and without divine authority.

On the other hand, we do not have a logion in which Jesus explicitly states that his whole Bible is without error. In order to identify Jesus’ position on biblical inerrancy it is obviously not enough to do a simple word study or to rely on an argument from silence; it is necessary to ask if Jesus’ explicit understanding of his holy Scriptures was compatible with the concept of inerrancy.

When it comes to the inerrancy of the NT, we are in a still more difficult position. On this topic we do not have even a single statement from Jesus, nor do we have a comment by any of his apostles about the truth of the NT canon. But we can at least ask if the theological notion of inerrancy is in line with what the bearers of the NT revelation have to say about their teaching and their books.

I. An Historical Reflection:
What Is The Essence Of NT Inerrancy?

In order to understand what the post-biblical term “inerrancy” and the related concept means it is helpful to briefly recall what some of the most prominent of its proponents have had to say about the concept.

1. Augustine’s 82nd Letter (ad 405). My first example is the church father Augustine, who in one of his letters to his theo...

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