This article on Christian Fundamentalism says that it is developed by Protestants at Princeton University.

This Catholic source on Biblical inerrancy says that it has always been with the Catholics. Even prior to the Second Vatican Council, it was believed by Catholics that the Bible was without error.

I even answered an earlier Christianity.SE question on the history of inerrancy here, using different sources.

Do Protestants and Catholics each have their own versions of "Biblical inerrancy"? Or could it be that one theological tradition was inspired by the other? If Protestants are descended from the Catholic church, then how did they "lose" their own doctrine of inerrancy, as the sources seem to imply? Basically, was the doctrine of inerrancy a Catholic doctrine first, or a Protestant doctrine that later got borrowed by Catholics, or a doctrine evolved twice independently during the course of Christian history?

2 Answers 2


This selected Aerarius' answer to What are the main differences between the Catholic and Protestant definitions of Biblical inerrancy? said:

There is not any real difference between the Catholic teaching on inerrancy of Scripture and the generic "Protestant" view [...].

If this be the case, we have from the article on the Catholic position:

The Traditional Understanding of the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy Prior to the Second Vatican Council

The traditional understanding of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is perhaps most powerfully and clearly expressed by St. Augustine [354-430] in one of his letters to St. Jerome [340-2 to 420]:

For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the [manuscript] is faulty or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it . . . I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine.1

1. Letter 82, i, 3 in Philip Schaff (ed)., Letters of St. Augustine: The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, vol 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans, 1994) 348.

Therefore if by Biblical inerrancy is meant that the authors of the canonical books of Scripture were completely free from error, then from Catholic tradition, this Catholic understanding preceded the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy by over 1550 years. And the latter statement is:

Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy", is the doctrine that the Bible "is without error or fault in all its teaching"; or, at least, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact". - Source: Biblical inerrancy | Wikipedia.

  • 1
    So, Protestants formulated a doctrine independently, even though it had already been formulated before. That sounds like re-inventing the wheel.
    – Double U
    Feb 6, 2015 at 13:33
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    It makes me wonder whether Protestants borrowed the belief from the Catholic church during the Reformation and never knew they had it!
    – Double U
    Feb 6, 2015 at 13:35
  • From the Chicago Statement: "The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, ... We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstanding of this doctrine in the world at large." It's redescribing the wheel...
    – AVee
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:20
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    @DoubleU Yes they "borrowed" it. The Protestants believed they were reforming the church, not creating a brand new one from scratch. For example Calvin's Institutes are full of quotes from the Early Church fathers. You can call that "Catholic" but really it's a lot older than the division in the 16th century. (ie The Orthodox church believes in inerrancy as well)
    – Caleb
    Feb 7, 2015 at 16:00
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    @AVee The statement is saying that it AFFIRMS the inerrancy. They are not reinventing anything, simply making a statement of what they believe. Most churches, denominations and such have statements of doctrine. Everytime they write one they aren't re-doing all of systematic Theology. They are simply stating what they specifically believe on various subjects. ALSO saying that because Augustine said it means it was [Roman] Catholic is extremely disingenuous history. Protestants are barely distinguishable from the Catholic church of 350 AD, but are from the RC church of 1350AD.
    – Joshua
    Jan 2, 2016 at 20:22

The Belgic Confession (1561) states (Art. 4): " They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all." and (Art. 5) "And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them."

That's a long way before 1978, and you might find even older texts stating similar things. Catholic and Protestant churches share the same tradition here. During the Reformation this has never been an source of disagreement either. As such there is no such thing as 'different versions', it is the same doctrine. The assumption that something new was 'developed' at Princeton is wrong, what existed there was a counter movement in reaction to a (perceived) movement away from the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

  • "They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all." - What does this mean? As presented, I do not see this pointing to biblical-inerrancy.
    – user13992
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:19
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    Yeah, it could mean biblical literalism.
    – Double U
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:34
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    I read the phrase as "you can't argue with the contents of any of them". The Dutch translation seems to support that. The main point is that Protestants never deviated from the Catholic doctrine, so it stands. (Like many others they actually agree on.)
    – AVee
    Feb 6, 2015 at 22:40

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