In my previous post, I said I was going to overview some arguments put forth by Dr. Couch in his book God Has Spoken:  Inerrancy and Inspiration (Scofield Ministries, 2003). I will also be overviewing Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed (Scofield Ministries, 2012). However, I just realized two things. For one, I learned that his full name was Dr. Malcom O. Couch. Second, the citations that I have been gathering come from my Amazon Kindle editions of the two books, and the above first book’s actual title is God Has Spoken: Inspiration and Inerrancy (and not “Inerrancy and Inspiration”). God Has Spoken was republished in 2016 by Scofield Ministries in a series of books written by Dr. Couch from earlier years in The Mal Couch Legacy Collection Book 4. Therefore, this is an error stemming from the Amazon Kindle edition of the book God Has Spoken. The citations from my Kindle edition will be cited as follows without page numbers (page numbers and Kindle locations are not provided in this Kindle edition):

Couch, Mal. God Has Spoken:  Inerrancy and Inspiration (The Mal Couch Legacy Collection Book 4). Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Dr. Mal Couch (1938-2013) was the founder of Tyndale Seminary in Texas. He was equally the lead of Scofield Ministries. He taught Systematic Theology, Church history, biblical Hebrew and Greek at Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. He wrote a number of books and articles on biblical authority as well as Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Infallibility.

To begin, in God Has Spoken, Dr. Couch quotes Paul Feinberg (1938–2004), taken from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (1984), as stating something in favor of the topic at hand with which I find contrary to reality. Granted, it is representative of evangelical scholarship from 30-50 plus years ago, and so this view was extremely common among believing scholars in the past. Dr. Couch quoted him:

“Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible, in its original autographs and correctly interpreted, is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics, or to the social, physical or life sciences.”

 

Paul D. Feinberg, “Bible, Inerrancy and Infallibility of,” in The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 142

This does not sit well with me today in 2020, especially in the context that most conservative traditionalists continue to defend this view today and, in some unfortunate cases, aggressively practice verbal attacks against believing scholars and students who don’t hold to this view. For one, when all the facts become known today, the Bible is not entirely accurate nor applicable in the ethical, social, physical and life sciences. The Bible does not match modern scientific discoveries, which will be another major topic to blog about later this year when I discuss ancient biblical cosmology and physiology. As a caveat, let me assure you that some modern scientific discoveries do not necessarily invalidate the propositional truths found in the Bible, either—even if the text is not accurate, which it is not meant to be. I am not advocating, however, that the Bible is completely, fully contrary to general truths about the world and about life. I am neither an atheist nor a materialist. But I am also not a creationist as it is defended by Answers in Genesis (AiG) and Creation Ministries (CMI). In terms of ethics, there are important ethical issues in the OT that cannot be easily carried over into today’s Church age and society, which is why there are debates in scholarship among believers, and against atheists, about violence, slavery and about marital disharmony on divorce and remarriage. For two, we do not have the autographs (i.e., the original manuscripts of the Bible), so we cannot make wild positive claims about them if they are no longer accessible, even if we think that what we have in Textual Criticism and Artifacts is sufficiently reliable. In fact, I am not aware that renown, active scholars nowadays mention autographs in the same sense as the traditionalists. They may speak about the original reading(s) or the original autographs in an abstract sense; in view that they actually existed at one point and now we can still try to get closer to them in the fields of study of archaeology, paleography and Textual Criticism. Some scholars (e.g. Bart Ehrman, if I recall correctly as an example) have pleaded other scholars to refrain from talking about the originals as if we had them or as if we can have high levels of certitude that they would match exactly, or almost exactly, what we have in our surviving manuscripts—although I do believe that we can acceptably infer that what we have (which is a whole lot) is extremely close to what could conceivably be the originals, depending on which parts of the Bible we are going to be referring to on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Couch quoted one of his past works in God Has Spoken referring to An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics (2000):

“That the Bible is without error, or inerrant and infallible, follows the fact that it comes from God in the very words (verbal), and that the Scriptures are inspired in every part (plenary). Thus, in believing that the Bible is inspired and inerrant, we hold that God divinely guided the apostles and prophets to write down exactly what He wanted, and that the Scriptures are totally without error and accurate.”

 

Mal Couch, ed., An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000), 17.

This is a premise that would fall apart if we find that some parts of Scripture are not totally accurate and without error of any kind; yet, precisely, there are inaccuracies in the Bible. Of course, the traditionalists-inerrantists would argue the contrary depending on the biblical passage. It also assumes that because it supposedly all comes from God in a verbal and plenary mode, that the final textual product (the autographs and their copies [manuscripts]) must reflect God’s perfection since he is the Omniscient and Omnipotent Lord of all and that he cannot err in any way. However, I don’t see (along with a great number of modern, active evangelical scholars) that this can work if we notice so many human elements in the biblical manuscripts. I repeat, and I recall, at this point that I am not denying nor rejecting the reliability of Scripture. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God in that it reliably reflects the Message and the messages that God imparted the biblical authors (which includes prophets, priests, disciples, and apostles). But, what about the editors and translators? You see, this is another problem. If we ascribe inspiration and inerrancy only to the original autographs that we don’t have, then how can we possibly make claims that we have the fully inspired and inerrant Word of God if we only have copies of manuscripts that in reality textually differ in some minor and, rarely, major ways? We also have so many translations until this day and most of them are based on the Masoretic Text (MT, circa 500-900 CE) for the OT, but the International Standard Version (ISV) based its translation of the book of Isaiah using the Great Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS, circa 250 BCE – 100 CE), and the DSS contain a lot of minor differences against the MT—and rarely does the DSS differ from the Septuagint (LXX, circa 250 BCE). Note, then, that most English, French, and Spanish translations until today base their translations for the OT on the MT which is up to 1,000 years later than the earliest DSS and LXX witnesses that we have. I call to your attention that the NT uses the OT by using the LXX, not the Hebrew texts, and the NT authors evidently assumed that the LXX is the Word of God, even if, technically speaking, we can objectively detect that the LXX would not fully reflect the original autographs in Hebrew, since it does not even fully and completely match the Hebrew and Aramaic languages in the Semitic textual witnesses that we have in Textual Criticism. This does not impact the reliability of Scripture in my view, but it does somewhat negatively impact the Plenary Inspiration view in some subtle ways. Inerrancy is somewhat separate since it deals with affirmative statements, and the like, and not with textual transmission of specific words and sentences.

Later in God Has Spoken, Couch said that:

“The authors of the Bible had a compelling thought in mind. They were not just recording history, they were recording the mind of the Lord, His revelation in and about world history.”

 

Couch, Mal. God Has Spoken:  Inerrancy and Inspiration (The Mal Couch Legacy Collection Book 4). Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Well, I would argue that we can demonstrate that the Bible is not uniform when it comes to the criteria for Inspiration and Inerrancy to be true and consistent the way traditionalists defend it, nor is the Bible uniform when it comes to canonicity. The books of the Bible did not all become part of the canon so easily; some books were debated for a long time before they eventually made it into our current canon. The book of Esther poses some problems for the canonicity of the OT and, for the NT, 2 Peter and Jude were debated for a while into the second CE. Furthermore, the canon of the Eastern Orthodox Church is not the same as our Protestant canon. They include 1 Enoch, which is a Jewish pseudepigraphic book. In terms of “mind of the Lord,” a good example that I can lightly offer, and for which I will come back to in some other post(s), is 1 Corinthians 7, especially verses 12 and 25. In these verses, Paul says that he has no command from the Lord about the unmarried, the widows, and the virgins, but that he is giving an opinion if they should look for marriage, or not, since he is still trustworthy as one who was commissioned from the Lord Jesus Christ. What is striking about 1 Cor. 7 is that in verse 10 Paul says that the Lord Jesus gave the command that one must not get divorced if already married—and even here there are social and ethical issues that does not always sit well today within our believing and unbelieving society (but, I will spare you). That the married husband should not divorce his wife—except for sexual infidelity—from the discourses of Jesus is found in Matthew 5:31-32 and 19.9. So, if Paul is supposed to have recorded “the mind of the Lord,” then how is it that Paul is repeating a command from the Lord Jesus that Jesus explicitly taught as it is seen in the Gospel of Matthew? The same kind of phenomenon occurs when Paul speaks about the resurrection of Jesus and the Lord’s supper: it somewhat repeats what we find somewhere in the Gospels; it’s not new whole cloth. Further, if Paul is supposed to have recorded “the mind of the Lord,” then how is it that Paul explicitly says that some parts of the text (some recommendations and concessions from Paul) do not come from the Lord Jesus (i.e. 1 Cor. 7.12; 25)? This is contrary to the books on Inspiration and Inerrancy produced by both Dr. Mal Couch and Dr. Norman Geisler. It is equally true, nevertheless, that Paul does somewhat qualify his reliability and authority when he suggests, or issues orders, that do not come from the Lord: [1] 1 Cor. 7.25, not a command from the Lord, but he is still trustworthy in the Lord, [2] 1 Cor. 7.40, not a command from the Lord that a widow should not remarry (in the context of chapter 7, read it fully), but his opinion that a widow should not remarry (in the context of chapter 7), and he thinks his opinion carries weight because he had the Spirit of God. Still, everything in 1 Cor. 7 exhibits human elements guided by God but in a limited way. We cannot uncarefully apply everything we read in the OT and NT into our modern society without figuring out the original contexts and how they can or cannot be applicable today. Otherwise, we might become like the Pharisees arguing with Jesus over how the Torah (Law, but more preferably “Instruction”) was applicable or not in the context of what Jesus and his disciples were doing in the first century.

Dr. Couch quotes from Merrill F. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament (1951), that in Textual Criticism we must try to restore the Biblical text with the “autographa.” But we do not have any autographs as I have already repeated! Mal Couch and Norman Geisler also often rely on the fact that the Bible claims God revealed what was recorded by the Prophets and the Apostles. On this point, I do concede that God illuminated the Prophets and Apostles, and that he revealed his truth to them. But again, this does not confirm the proposition that there are no inaccuracies in history or the life sciences in the Bible. This only shows that, in its purposes, the Bible records the contents of what was revealed by God to the Prophets and Apostles, and as Dr. Couch recorded in his book, the author’s brains were not turned off, which in reality scores on my own point: the texts reflect ancient concepts and understandings about cosmology, physiology, zoology, other life sciences, history and numerology. Therefore, it gives us ground to consider that there are inaccuracies in history and the life sciences precisely because God was not imparting them accurate, modern historiography and science, but rather messages about Israel and human redemption that only secondarily might involve some historical and scientific elements from an ancient understanding and viewpoint. My point is even further underscored when we recall that, in this debate, none of us (neither myself nor Couch, nor Geisler, nor other evangelical scholars) believe in divinely mechanical and wooden dictation of the biblical text.

Dr. Couch also quoted Frank Gaebelein in Exploring the Bible (1950) in God Has Spoken:

“The doctrine of plenary inspiration holds that the original documents of the Bible were written by men, who, though permitted the exercise of their own personalities and literary talents, yet wrote under the control and guidance of the Spirit of God, the result being in every word of the original documents a perfect and errorless recording of the exact message which God desired to give to man.”

 

Frank E. Gaebelein, Exploring the Bible (Wheaton, Ill,: Van Kampen, 1950), 28-29.

The above from Gaebelein sounds too much like mechanical dictation even if it is not. Lest I repeat myself, I would like to note that I am unsure what Gaebelein would say today about this if he were alive based on the textual difficulties that I have already pointed out so far. There are important set of words in the quotation above: “original documents,” “perfect,” “errorless,” “exact message,” and “desired.” It all depends what that message can refer to in Gaebelein’s mind, and we still have the problematic “original documents.” We do not have them and we only have copies with variants; most of them minor, and some major. In that view, it means that we no longer fully and completely have the “exact” and “errorless” Word of God. That view is not workable with what we have.

Let us clarify some criteria about what is meant by Inspiration and Inerrancy in the view of Dr. Couch. He argued the following in God Has Spoken:

“A good definition of divine inspiration must include the following elements:

1.  The supernatural, personal, and direct activity of the Holy Spirit of God.

2. The personal and genuine participation of human writers.

3. Supernatural guidance as to the individual words of the Bible (verbal).

4. A disallowing of any errors or omissions (inerrancy).

5. Extending to the totality of the Scriptures (plenary).

6. Relating only to the original autographs.

7. Communicating the exact message God intended to give to people (infallibility and authority).”

 

Couch, Mal. God Has Spoken:  Inerrancy and Inspiration (The Mal Couch Legacy Collection Book 4). Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

These criteria do not accurately represent what we actually observe in all the textual issues that we can identify in the Bible. For instance, as I have already mentioned above, Inspiration and Inerrancy cannot be considered uniform throughout the entire Protestant biblical canon. The book of Esther has not yet been found in any of the Dead Sea Scrolls and, in terms of literary genre, it reads much like the Apocryphal book of Judith. I am not saying that I do not accept Esther or that I think that it should not be included in our canon. I am okay with Esther, but the evidence in canonicity does not favor a uniform and unchangeable Bible from the second millennium BCE until today. Our current biblical books were not added to the canon simply because they were automatically viewed as verbally inspired by Esdras, the Second Temple Jews, and the early Judeo-Christians. Not all books in our Bible were added into the canon a priori because of a perceived inspiration. The criteria for adding books into the canonical OT and NT varied and it was certainly not always exclusively related to inspiration. Reflect on, and research, Song of Songs in the OT as an example, and then review Philemon in the NT as another example. What is so inspired and inerrant in Philemon? Does it contain much theology? It’s a simple letter from Paul to Philemon. We can still extract some Christian principles out of it, but why do we have Philemon if it is not even close to being informative on Theology and Christian practices as in Romans? Books and letters were added for other reasons other than inspiration: written by an authoritative figure; correspondence of truth with other recognized books and letters; primitive date (1st century) as opposed to a late date (2nd-3rd century); and early recognition and attestation by other Christian apostles of such books and letters.

Point number 6 in the list above limits divine inspiration only “to the original autographs.” I agree insofar that the textual content originated from God through an established, chosen author onto an original parchment or papyrus. But we do not have the original autographs and the NT authors did not have the original OT autographs either! So, this is a major point that underscores my own view, which I have not yet fully distilled. To put parts of my view more clearly here, The NT quotes the OT while not using, and perhaps not having [1] the original languages (Hebrew and Aramaic), [2] the autographs (in Hebrew and Aramaic), and [3] the very early manuscript copies from the times of Moses or the OT prophets (in Hebrew and Aramaic). We also know very well in modern LXX studies that the four LXX versions that we possess today sometimes disagree in some places among each other and differ sometimes against the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), but more often than not the LXX does agree with the DSS. Yet, more often, both the LXX and the DSS have textual disagreements against the MT. This is a problem for the traditionalists-inerrantists like Dr. Couch and Dr. Geisler, and the past scholars that they have quoted in support of their views on this topic. The LXX is a problem in light of all of this. In the Greek NT, Paul was not quoting the original autographs written by Moses in Early-Hebrew, nor was he quoting the original autographs by Malachi in Late-Hebrew from Malachi 1.1-3 in Romans 9.13. He was quoting from an imperfect LXX translation with textual variants! Some NT scholars have also noted in the past that sometimes Paul quoted freely (perhaps from memory, from hand notes, or textual copies that differ from what we have today), or created his own mash-up from different books in the Prophets (as we also get in Matthew’s Gospel), especially when a Greek quote from Paul stemming from the OT does not quite match everything that we have in the DSS and LXX in our present day (e.g., Romans 9.33 (quoting somewhat Isaiah 8.14); Romans 10.15 (quoting somewhat Isaiah 52.7); and Ephesians 4.8 (quoting somewhat Psalm 68.18)). It’s still reliable, so I am not questioning the reliability of Scripture. But this is a fact that actually contradicts Mal Couch’s view on Inspiration and Inerrancy even if he would not have seen this as a problem today and even if he would have had some kind of response to this! For the Greek NT authors, the Greek LXX OT was the inspired Word of God, even if the LXX was not the original language(s) and manuscript(s)! The NT authors were not concerned with what we are all making of this Inspiration and Inerrancy debate in modern times.

Dr. Couch also complicates matters even more in God Has Spoken in that Inspiration (according to him) is not:

1. Only human genius, but supernatural;

2. The inspiration of the authors, but the written books;

3. Partial inspiration or degrees of inspiration;

4. That the Bible only contains the Word of God or becomes the Word of God

5. The inspiration of Ideas

6. Verbal dictation (mechanical inspiration)

7. That every word of the Bible is literally true;

8. An assertion that our present translations are inspired.

 

There are serious issues with numbers 3, 4, 5, and 8. Take number 8 for instance. If our present translations are not inspired then, again, how do we view or explain the NT? As I have seen from other conservative scholars in the past, they would probably argue that only the original autographs were inspired, but that the transmission of the text in the original languages, and then in other languages through ancient and modern translations, was faithfully preserved until today. Thus, they would expound and defend the preservation of the Bible. However, if we would get granular in this blog post, which I will not because it would become a book, the biblical text contains many textual issues that would pose serious problems for the preservation of the Bible by using the traditionalists’ view on Inspiration. This would still fall into the category of Textual Criticism. I do agree that the Bible was preserved overall, but that’s a superficial argument that does not contradict my problems with Plenary Inspiration and the full Inerrancy of the Bible in matters of history and science. In the NT, the authors mainly quoted the LXX, once again, and not the Hebrew copies, even less the Hebrew original autographs! The NT authors still believed they were quoting the Word of God as I already said many times by now. All the arguments quoted from the NT in defense of Plenary Inspiration disregard this very fact! I would stress that that would mean the NT is quoting from a-no-longer-fully-inspired Scripture, regardless what one would make about a supposed perfect or sufficient preservation of the biblical text, which is contradicted by a closer analysis of all sorts of textual phenomena in the Bible.

Now, let us take a look at another book that was published by Dr. Couch in 2012: Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed (Scofield Ministries). In this book, Couch criticized Dr. Michael R. Licona and Dr. Gary R. Habermas because they do not take Matthew 27.51-53 as a literal historical event, but as a compositional device, and so the many bodies of the saints that supposedly came out of the tombs after the veil of the temple was torn, and after the earth shook, did not literally occur. Dr. Couch sided with Albert Mohler and Dr. Geisler in that Dr. Licona and Dr. Habermas are not displaying an evangelical position, but a liberal position (an “unorthodox position”) that resembles the Neo-orthodox position on Scripture:

“The difference, however, lies in the Neo-orthodox concept of the Bible as the “Word of God.” To this thinking, this means that essentially the Bible “just contains” the message of God, but that the vehicle of that message, the words and language of Scripture, can be in error because of the human element in the recording of God’s message.”

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Couch committed the same fallacies as Geisler: if we cannot trust some parts of the Bible, therefore we cannot trust other parts of the Bible either:

“Inerrancy is the doctrine, which secures a trustworthy reliance of every biblical teaching. Vital truths stand or fall with inerrancy. If the record of Scripture cannot be trusted, then neither can the other doctrines of Scripture. The biblically- minded child of God thus has an obligation to pursue a sound scriptural approach to this doctrine. If the Bible is solely the product of man, then it is by no means revelation, nor is it in- fallible. Thus, man has no message from God, no guide unto salvation. Biblical revelation, then, must have been by the influence of God to secure an accurate infallible message to mankind. Otherwise the Bible is invalid as a reliable revelation of the things of God.”

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

But this is a wooden view of Scripture in a 21-century era. With all the concerns today with modern science and ancient literature, we find that the Bible has both human and divine elements. This point, that the Bible has human elements, is accepted by Couch and Geisler, but not in the same way, or at the same levels, as other scholars, and myself, who would disagree. The human elements, we actually find, contain human inaccuracies in some parts of the Bible and it involves peripheral issues about cosmology, geography, name-places, numerology, genealogies, physiology, and zoology or biological taxonomy. If the Bible indeed contains inaccuracies about these peripheral details, we should not consider it to be compromising Inspiration and Inerrancy, but the traditionalists argue that it would. I find that too restrictive and wooden. Inaccuracies in the Bible about peripheral elements should not be interpreted as hindering the messages found in each Biblical book, or the main message in the entire Bible; but the traditionalists-inerrantists resist.

Another quote from Couch:

“Plenary inspiration, which we will discuss later, assures the infallible communication and recording of every word in its proper order, as God so intended. The end result is the perfect infallibility of the Scriptures in every part, as a record of fact and doctrine both in thought and in verbal expression.”

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

There is no beneficial purpose to apologetically defend Plenary Inspiration if it does not fully represent what we actually have and if it disregards potential problems with history, science, literary transmission, and Textual Criticism that affects its stance. Since it cannot well explain away all the layers of difficulties from a textual point of view, it fails to be an adequate understanding of how the Bible can be inspired and inerrant when it clearly is not in the way that it is defended by Couch and Geisler. Couch’s books do not explain how his definitions of Inerrancy actually proves to be true in light of modern Textual Criticism and Philology, and these fields of studies are mostly pioneered and led by believing scholars of all denominations, not by unbelieving scholars! These believing scholars, including myself (a student), who would disagree with Couch, are defenders of the Bible; we are not attackers of it! Therefore, Couch was incorrectly and superficially exaggerating the evidence in order to sincerely defend God and the Bible in the way that he and Geisler used to view it:

“Inerrancy means that the Word of God is free from error. The Bible can be trusted in its original writing as recorded by its original authors. It is important to stress that we are speaking of the words that were first written down by the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament. This often causes confusion by those who hear this term. (Couch, Thesis. 6)”

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

This is actually contradicted by Textual Criticism. What is strange is that Couch uses some quotes from Geisler on Textual Criticism to defend Inspiration and Inerrancy. But Norman Geisler was not a textual critic, so why is it that real textual critics like Dr. Daniel B. Wallace have corrected Geisler’s misunderstanding on Textual Criticism several years ago when Geisler was still alive? Dr. Wallace is a Greek grammarian and a textual critic. He is the founder of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM). He is an evangelical scholar who debated Bart D. Ehrman numerous times in defense for the reliability of the NT manuscripts and, yet, he would disagree with Geisler’s gist on Textual Criticism and Inerrancy. In fact, some relevant references for my assertions are the following: Daniel B. Wallace, “My Take on Inerrancy”, (Bible.org, Aug. 10, 2006) and Daniel B. Wallace, “The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation” (Sept. 9, 2013). So how could Couch rely on Geisler for this kind of information? Well, because they were in the same camp in defense of Plenary Inspiration and Inerrancy, and in Apologetics; both against Dr. Michael R. Licona.

Dr. Couch defined Verbal Inspiration, Plenary Inspiration and Mechanical Dictation as follows:

Verbal inspiration : The Spirit of God guided the writers of the Bible in the very choice of the words used in the original writings of Scripture.

Plenary inspiration : Plenary means “full inspiration” as opposed to views that claim only partial inspiration for the Bible. The whole of the book is inspired, not simply parts of it.

Mechanical dictation : This view says that the human authors were just stenographers and that God simply dictated the Bible word for word, the human authors contributing nothing to the content of the Bible. But the truth is that the Lord used the human thoughts and expressions, and their experiences, in giving forth His message. He used inspired prophets and apostles to communicate to us what He wished to say. What they wrote was without error. And the mind of the authors was not “turned off” making them simply neutral “secretaries” as to what God was communicating to the readers.

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Mechanical dictation was rejected by both Couch and Geisler as it is reflected in the above definitions. I also reject mechanical dictation along with every other scholar. Plenary Inspiration is what is defended since the authors’ brains were not turned off and wrote using their own writing style, vocabulary and grammar. But this is in reality an oversimplification of what we actually find in the Bible. Biblical authors reflect concepts and elements about science, physiology, history and geography that are not always accurate. I will be unpacking some of these in greater details along with exemplary passages in subsequent blog posts once I get to exposition my own view on Inspiration and Inerrancy. I find that the Bible does not reflect neither Mechanical Dictation nor Plenary Inspiration, but actually another view that would probably still need to be defined and named in scholarship (maybe I am not aware of such view that has probably already been given a name). In such a case, in my view, only Inspiration would stand, not Inerrancy. I had asked Prof. Larry W. Hurtado (1943–2019) about this conclusion of mine by email in March 29, 2019, and he had agreed with me that: “…the idea of “inerrancy”, which is a rather modern notion … a notion of verbal inerrancy that leads to the problems…”

Here are other views defined by Mal Couch in Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed:

Concept theory : This view says that God inspired only the big ideas, the concepts of the paragraphs and sentences and not each word. But the evidence is that every word is inspired and thus the sentences and paragraphs are inspired so that we are receiving the parts and the whole when we are reading our Bible.

Partial inspiration : This view says that there are sections of Scripture that are inspired but not the entire Bible. It is as if the human authors “fill in” the Bible around certain sections that are indeed inspired. But which parts are inspired and which parts are simply from the human authors? No one can tell which is which!

Neoorthodox inspiration : This view says the Bible “becomes” the Word of God to the reader. It is an emotional view that argues for the Scriptures becoming the Word of God, but in reality, it is not the Word of God of itself. Today, this is the popular and most modern view, but in reality, it is saying that the Bible becomes God’s Word when appropriate. The Bible under this theory becomes true only as it is comprehended and applied by the individual reader. The fact that the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit is supported by many internal evidences that it is indeed the Word of God and is confirmed by the work of the Spirit to influence and transform men. Of all the evidences, however, one of the most important is the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself to the fact that the Bible is inspired of God.  (Walvoord & Chafer, 20)

 

Couch, Mal. Inerrancy: All Scripture is God-breathed. Scofield Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Dr. Couch also quoted Psalm 12.6:

“The words of Yahweh are pure words like silver refined in the crucible on the ground, refined seven times.”

(LEB)

My current understanding of Inspiration and Inerrancy would only agree with Concept Theory and Partial inspiration in passing, and only because traditionalists are trying to have the Bible be scientifically and historically true in every form. This is what I do not agree with. I am not so sure that my current understanding of what the Bible is would actual fully fall onto one of these views.

Now, as for Psalm 12.6, it has nothing to do with Textual Criticism nor the actual problems of accuracy that we find elsewhere in Scripture. The Psalmist was not concerned with history nor text-critical issues, or some other peripheral issues that might be of concern today. The psalmist was concerned with the Torah and oral tradition in light of morals, loyalty, theology and religion. Quoting Psalm 12.6 does not prove that there are no inaccuracies whatsoever throughout Scripture in any shape or form. That Psalm only testifies that God’s Word, God’s Message(s), are pure words. But the biblical text is much more than just these words from God; it objectively and provably contains textual glosses, editions, and rehashing of earlier material with different wording and information (Samuel/Kings vs Chronicles, and Mark vs Matthew/Luke, and the Synoptics vs John).

Dr. Couch also quotes 1 Thessalonians 2.13:

“And because of this we also give thanks to God constantly, that when you received God’s word that you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe.”

(LEB)

1 Thessalonians 2 is not about the biblical text, and it is certainly not Paul’s own letter. It is about what the OT says about the Messiah and the Kingdom of God through Jesus’ teachings as seen in the Gospels along with the original disciples and the early apostles. It is not, strictly speaking, about the NT letters themselves. In other words, the Word of God in 1 Thessalonians 2.13 is not that very letter itself or the Gospel manuscripts themselves! Note that Paul says “…that you heard from us…” in light of, presumably, earlier communications of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus with the Thessalonians in person.

Lastly, the most quoted passage in defense of Plenary Inspiration as Couch and Geisler defend in their books is 2 Timothy 3.16:

“All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, 17 in order that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

(LEB)

However, this passage does not detail, and it is not concerned with, particular elements of history, geography, manuscripts, or canonicity. This passage is concerned with theological and practical doctrines. This passage does not resolve the proposition that there are no historical or scientific inaccuracies in the Bible. In the modern world, we have to interpret this passage in light of what we actually find in the Bible all throughout and not by presupposing that there cannot be any textual, canonical, historical, numerological, or physiological inaccuracies in the Bible since there are, in fact, some inaccuracies. This is not a problem with God himself, it’s a problem with the traditionalist’s view on Inspiration and Inerrancy about how the authors penned and transmitted the biblical texts. Jesus is the living Word of God, but the biblical text is neither God nor Jesus. God does not make mistakes, but to presuppose or superimpose that understanding on the concrete textual data in the Bible(s) that we can all have access today is not very honest nor accurate—the most well-versed scholarly atheists and agnostics will point all of this out anyhow, but most probably for antagonistic purposes.

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