Problems with the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy and the Canon of Scripture
by Barrett Wolf
These are observations and questions I’ve raised which have brought serious doubt on the doctrines of Biblical inerrancy and the acceptance of the Canon of the Bible that Evangelical Protestant Christian use (“the” 66 books).
- Closed canon means a closed mind – example: if we found the other Pauline Corinthian epistles, why would we not consider them to be included in the canon. Canonization is its own doctrine on which the doctrine of biblical inerrancy stands.
- The 7 undisputed letters of Paul are: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Several additional letters lack academic consensus: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on whether the former two epistles are the letters of Paul; however, the latter four – 2 Thessalonians, as well as the three known as the “Pastoral Epistles” – have been labeled pseudepigraphical works by most critical scholars.
- Are all the epistles authentic? Any updates/edits? Any forgeries? How can I know for sure? …just trust the church fathers? I don’t think so.
- Jude 14 contains a prophecy of Enoch. The Book of Enoch was used in the early church until the third century (Clement, Irenaeus and Tertullian). Did Revelation borrow imagery from Enoch?
- Inerrancy depends on a solid canon. If God intentionally oversaw the inspiration of the writing of the autographs, why did He not intentionally oversee the process of canon selection and manuscript copying, making His word (message) crystal clear. If he inspired the autographs, why didn’t he inspire/protect/preserve them?
- Pseudographs, Apocrypha, Septuagint, Latin Vulgate, Martin Luther, others, etc.
- The current protestant Christian bible (the 39 and 27), was not widely used in the state we have it today until after the reformation. Even then it took a while to develop. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, the canon wasn’t clearly established/defined. The Vulgate was a dominant scripture in the church (it included the Apocrypha). Even so, the 1611 did as well. Earlier, Luther put the Apocrypha into a separate section. But he also did the same to Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. If all this is true, am I to assume that the “correct bible” and doctrine of inerrancy and canon didn’t mature until the last 400-500 years (or more recently)? And is only available by those who accept our protestant bible? Doesn’t make sense.
- Tyndale bible and Matthew bible (also Apocrypha)
- Did the church fathers read the Septuagint (LXX)? Apostles quoted from Apocrypha in the New Testament and some Pseudopigrapha. Did they regard it as Holy Scripture? If so, why don’t we today?
- The doctrine of inerrancy is inextricably connected to a solid and coherent doctrine of the canon (the 66 books). Also, it is inextricably connected to the impact of textual criticism.
The 1978 Chicago Statement has some problems: Why is “Scripture” not defined? 66 books? Which ones are inspired and inerrant? And it lacks clear explanation of the original autographs and how the impact of textual criticism relates to the autographs.
- What was really going on between AD 30 and AD 325? How many groups? What did they believe? What were their motives? What changed and evolved? Why did the Jews not believe Jesus rose from the dead? How did the doctrine of the deity of Jesus develop and become established as orthodoxy? Development and establishment of the trinity? All of these things as a precursor to the development of the canon? What were the real motivators? Will I ever know? Why should I trust them? My reading of the Bible doesn’t compel me to believe the “processes” that occurred during the first 4 centuries. Am I just supposed to accept the “tradition” of the canon of the N.T. as inspired Word of God? Why?
- Who wrote the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)? How do we know? Why are they anonymous?
- The authorship of the Pentateuch is in serious question. More on this later…
- It seems to me the only way for me to ever really believe/embrace the Bible as inspired, inerrant and canonized, I first need to understand and know all the stakeholders, constituents, parties, writers, church fathers, etc. of the first 3 centuries. Then, after learning all I can about these, I must come to a logical and rational conclusion that the process was still divinely inspired. Those who held different beliefs were rightfully dubbed as heretics, and those who were victorious with their beliefs were right and perfectly guided by God. I must be convinced of these things for me to believe the Bible to be true and right.
Here are some questions I have asked: Did Christianity invent anti-Semitism? How did Christianity evolve from a Jewish sect within the Jewish community (Jesus’ time) to anti-Jewish? To me, this is a huge mystery. And what was the 1st century Jewish persons view of “canon”?