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I have encountered a few instances when Bible critics and Muslims have tried to use the Adultery Pericope (John 7:53-8:11) and the extended ending of the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) to disprove the inerrancy of the Bible and claim that the Bible has been corrupted. While I do agree that there's a lot of controversy surrounding these two parts of the Bible, there also seems to be strong arguments both for and against retaining them in the Bible, hence no one seems to be able to state for sure if these should be retained or removed from the Bible.

I don't intend to start a discussion as to whether they should or should not be retained in the Bible, but what I'd like to ask are these:

  1. What is the best definition of 'inerrancy of the Bible'? What is meant by 'corruption of the Bible', if at all it is?
  2. If at all the Bible is errant and/or corrupted, what constitutes an element or portion in the Bible that would render the Bible errant and/or corrupted?
  3. In light of the answers to Questions 1 and 2, are the arguments of the Bible critics and Muslims justified when they cite the Adultery Pericope and Mark 16 controversies as evidences of the Bible's errancy and corruption?

I know not all Christians subscribe to the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, but I do, and I'd like to hear from others more learned than me who also believe in the inerrancy of the Word of God with regards to the above questions.

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, fredsbend, Matt Gutting, Flimzy, bruised reed Apr 15 '15 at 5:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • inerrancy means different things to different denominations. The Muslim critics will mean that it is not inerrant like the Quran is, but what inerrancy means to an Islamic denomination also varies. – the dark wanderer Apr 10 '15 at 16:41
  • you might find this other Q&A helpful in this type of question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/9268/… – Mike Apr 11 '15 at 2:54
  • this two - refers to classic ideas about what inherency actually means: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/9199/… – Mike Apr 11 '15 at 2:56
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    You need to split up your question. Asking all this makes it too broad. – curiousdannii Apr 11 '15 at 9:59
  • There's also a good deal of opinion in the question. A definition of innerrancy would vary. What would constitute an element that would render the Bible errant is entirely opinion based. The third question is also thoroughly opinion based. – fredsbend Apr 13 '15 at 6:50
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The Adultery Pericope and the Long Ending of Mark prove no more than that they were additions to the gospels as originally written. They, by themselves, do not prove or disprove the inerrancy of the original compositions, and certainly not the spiritual essence of the Bible.

Since you believe in biblical inerancy, you would already have a definition for 'inerrancy' that suits you. However, Wikipedia says that 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". Wikipedia goes on to say that some equate inerrancy with infallibility and others do not, and states that biblical inerrancy should not be confused with Biblical literalism.

  • Thanks for the explanation. I had an idea of what biblical inerrancy is, but I just needed a standard or widely accepted definition to go by in my arguments against the Bible critics. I think the Chicago Statement sums up biblical inerrancy well enough. – James Apr 14 '15 at 12:38
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There's a difference between how Muslims and Christians view their respective scriptures, which I think drives this argument from Muslims. In Islam, the Quran itself is considered to be holy. That is to say, they believe that the very text itself (and its grammar and words) was given by God through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad and that the text and language used is divine. That is why they treat the actual physical book with great respect.

In Christianity, we maintain that God inspired human writers to write the books which make up the Bible. In the Old Testament, God worked through Moses and the prophets to write the books; in the New Testament, He worked through the Apostles and those closely associated with them (i.e. Mark and Luke). So, the Bible is the Word of God, yet mediated through human writers who imparted their own stylistic and grammatical influences (for example, the Greek of John has semitic influences, whereas the Greek of Luke - since he was a Gentile - does not have these semitic traits).

So, in Islam there would be a problem with a text like the Adultery Pericope and the extended ending of Mark, since that would demonstrate that the text itself was not given by God to Muhammad or that it had been corrupted. However, in Christianity, this is not a problem. Whether these texts are original to the first manuscripts or added later is really immaterial. They don't introduce new doctrines and nothing really changes whether or not they're included or excluded. They fit within the overall context of the Bible, which is why they're part of it.

So, there's a difference between believing in the inerrancy of the Bible and believing whether or not these passages were originally part of it.

There are corollaries with this in other parts of Christian doctrine as well, such as the Sacraments (i.e. God's grace mediated through elements of His creation, like water and bread/wine) and the pastoral office (i.e. God's Word preached by sinful men).

A good article on the Quran is on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran#Significance_in_Islam

  • Very helpful explanation. Thanks for the insight :) – James Apr 14 '15 at 12:41

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