Not all Christians hold to the view of Biblical inerrancy. For example, some Christians believe that nothing in the first eleven chapters of Genesis are meant to be taken literally. For another example, some Christians believe that prophecies and visions like those found in Isaiah and in the Book of Revelation are all about spiritual events, not physical ones. How are those views justified in the Bible?

What verses do opponents of Biblical inerrancy cite to support their views and contradict the idea that the Bible is inerrant or that it is all to be taken literally?

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    Could you start by editing to clarify if your question relates to "literal" or "inerrant"? They aren't synonyms. "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know Me." This is inerrant -- He knows us and we know Him -- but we aren't literally sheep.
    – Maverick
    Nov 20 at 2:15
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    I agree with @Maverick that the OP is mistaking 'literal' for 'inerrant'. That some interpretations view parts of the narrative as symbolic or figurative does not imply that any part of the biblical text is erroneous. The question requires more research, more clarity and more detail.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 20 at 6:14
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    @LeeWoofenden I know lots of inerrants who don't believe those chapters are literal. Outside of YECs that's the most common position across almost all of Christianity!
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 20 at 11:33
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    @LeeWoofenden I’m a strict biblical inerrantist who believes the first chapters of Genesis are not 100% literal. The only exception I can really think of are people like Dr. Pete Enns who is neither an inerrantist or literalist, on the more progressive branch of Christianity.
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 20 at 12:24
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    Jesus said "I am the vine". The Scripture saying this is inerrant... but its not literal. The same is true when He said "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" - its inerrant, but not literal. The same can be said for a host of Scriptures in both the New Testament and Old. As others have requested... please sharpen the question. Nov 21 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


It is good that the focus of the question is the biblical basis, and not biblical verses, for (despite what some Christians might think, or claim) there is not even one verse in the entire Bible that could be rightly used to support the idea of the Bible being in error. This is the view of Reformed Protestants who still stick to their credal statements on the topic. Some Protestant groups, however, have moved away from this fundamental stance.

What is done by some who are critical of the Bible in that respect, is to take bits - various accounts - and subject them to higher criticism, which has its scholars then decree that those are in error (for example, the Bart Ehrman school which has many supporters today, some of whom say they are Christians). That could be historic events, or miracles, or just a few words wrongly translated, here and there. It needs to be pointed out, though, that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy only ever has applied to the autographs - the original manuscripts, and not copies of them. But this brings us to a closely related point; the manuscripts used.

A truly critical point is that the most controversial matter here is not how the text has been translated so much as which texts are translated.

Reformed Protestants believe not only in the divine inerrancy of scripture, but in the divine preservation of scripture. Here is one example:

"The Old Testament in Hebrew... and the New Testament in Greek... being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical." The Westminster Confession of Faith (1.8), 1646

The like stance is stated in the Savoy Declaration (1658), the Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675), and the London Baptist Confession (1689).

But, starting in the late 1800s and continuing to this day, other manuscripts not used by the Church from the first century till the 20th, began to be preferred over all that the saints had preserved and promoted, translating from those ancient Hebrew and koine Greek manuscripts that had come down to them, into modern languages so that the populace could read the inspired word of God for themselves. An example of the subtlety of sneaking those in is with the New King James Version, which claims (in its preface) that the O.T. is a translation from the Hebrew Masoretic text, and the N.T. is translated from the same texts used by the A.V. of 1611. Not so when the NKJ margins are examined, where many deviations are shown to have been slipped in, using other modern texts from the Critical text. Many subtle points of difference have been missed by many, as detailed in a 15-page booklet produced by the Trinitarian Bible Society, examining the claims of the NKJ:

"...the character and testimony in our churches will radically change... for the worse... The Authorised Version is far superior, and while not perfect it remains the best and most accurate English translation of God's Holy Word." Critique of the NKJ Version, p.14, Trinitarian Bible Society, 2008 See also their article "The Twin Doctrines of Scripture" in their Quarterly Record, Issue No. 624, July-September 2018, pp.39-40

Their gloomy prediction has proved true. We now find those who use the NKJV supposing it's the same as the AV, just without thee, thou, and strange words like 'shambles' for the market-place. Not so. Worse, teachings based on subtle distortions in the Critical Text have corrupted the relationship of Christ and God, with some feeling so liberated by the Critical Text that they can now teach false doctrines, and get off with it, almost unchallenged.

My five-fold answer is that today's disbelief in the doctrine of biblical inerrancy arises from (1) disbelieving God would preserve his inspired scriptures throughout the centuries; (2) that the comparatively recent discovery of supposedly better manuscripts (because of being older) has caused those to replace what was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude verse 3) in the first century; (3) that modern translations based on those have given Higher Critics a field-day because of the many conflicting translations we now have; (4) that availability of many modern versions has perversely caused many Christians to be less well-read in scripture, even to being almost biblically illiterate, happily being spoon-fed by those who claim to be 'qualified' teachers, the drip-drip influence of the Higher Critics hastening their 'take-it'or-leave-it' attitude to the Bible. (5) a corrupted biblical text is the main basis for disbelief in the inerrancy of scripture, for it gives rise to error.

I base that on over 40 years as a Protestant Christian, mixing in various denominations, where even my own one has largely succumbed to using modern versions based on the Critical Text. Truly we see the fulfillment of the scriptural warning, that...

"...the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12 A.V.

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    And I add my own 60 years of profession to thine, making a full century. Plus an up-vote +1. Especially because you so rightly point out that the fundamental stance of Protestantism (the three documents you refer to) based their belief in inerrancy . . . . . on the Textus Receptus. Which faith is now undermined by two manuscripts which are given vastly too much preponderance and have led to the shaking of the Christian foundation to its very core.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 22 at 12:56
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    Liberal theologians have much to answer for. See this question/answer: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/97467/…
    – Lesley
    Nov 22 at 15:39
  • It's a little hard to see how this answers the question, which specifically asked for the biblical basis for disbelief in the inerrancy of Scripture. This seems instead to be an apologetic supporting belief in the MSS used by the KJV as the authentic, inerrant Word of God. Nov 23 at 5:17
  • @LeeWoofenden I did list some points taken as evidence against Bible inerrancy: biblical historic events, miracles, or a few words wrongly translated (para. 2). I chose to detail MS error as my example here, using the word 'example' in paras. 4 & 6. This is because, if the foundation for producing the Bible is wobbly, the whole structure might later be pushed over, or, plastered over to cover the cracks, by those still wishing to appear to support the Bible. The question of which school of MSS can be trusted is fundamental to the whole Q here, I would suggest.
    – Anne
    Nov 23 at 9:24

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