The notion that I am addressing (per Erik’s comment) is
that the bible does claim inerrancy/infallibility–or at the very least teaches principles which require and imply them. Ps 19:7, Prov 30:5, 2 Tim 3:16,17 are good places to start.
Let’s look at these references (including some of the verses around them):
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
This is a beautiful example! Let’s note that David wrote this, so the only scripture (which it doesn’t say anything about) that he knew was the Pentateuch… the law that was given the Hebrew people. David only notes that the “law” is perfect and refreshing. I wonder if his notion of perfect would be what we mean by perfect… or if it means inerrant (without error… see post on definitions)? He also says that the statutes of the Lord are to be trusted. Ok, I definitely trust God. More than anything else, I think it is important to note that he leads up each statement with feelings… leading me to think that he is not focused on facts at all.
And here is something that fully explains why I cannot see the Bible as completely fact, only that it was meant to say what the author meant it to say. David fully believed that the sun moved across the sky. Verses 1-6 clearly show that. But we know that it is not the case. If God wanted the Bible to be complete fact or he was telling the writers what to write, couldn’t he have just told them the sun stays in one place and saved us years of research? Beyond this, it seems to me that David is placing as much emphasis on the physical world as he is the “law” of God!
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Interestingly, this says nothing about scripture, the bible, or even the “law.” It is written by a guy named Agur, who we don’t even know exists… he is not mentioned anywhere in the bible. I struggle with using this as the bible claiming to be without error because it says nothing of the sort… and the proverbs seem to be a collection of wisdom sayings by various people, mainly Solomon. Every religion has collections of wisdom sayings which essentially could be interchangeable due to their similarity.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that all God’s people [a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I really like this reference… precisely because it tells us what the scripture should be used for, not because it says anything about it being inerrant or infallible. It is about action and purpose and pointing to Jesus rather than self-claims. First, the only scripture Paul and timothy had was the Hebrew scriptures. They did not save anyone… it was faith in Jesus that saved, but the scriptures helped in discovering the way Paul and Timothy were to be in order to follow in the way of Jesus. There is strong reference to example, community, and Jesus… but no claims of inerrancy or infallibility. It doesn’t seem like these were really issues that early Jesus followers really worried about. God-breathed does not mean inerrant.