Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Inspiration, Inerrancy, and the OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Inspiration, Inerrancy, and the OT Canon: The Place of Textual Updating in an Inerrant View of Scripture

Article excerpt

For good reason, there are often strong emotions attached to the issues of inspiration, inerrancy, the autographa, and the canon. This article does not seek to overturn a conservative or evangelical understanding of the biblical doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy. I wholeheartedly endorse the commonly held evangelical view of both theological concepts and do not question that God superintended the entire process of inscripturation with the result that the OT Scriptures were God-breathed. Those Scriptures are without error, infallible, and fully reliable. The article proposes a biblically based idea that fits within a firm and enthusiastic belief in inspiration and inerrancy. I seek to show that some commonly used definitions of key terms, especially "autographa" and "canonicity," are defined primarily from a NT perspective and do not give sufficient attention to some of the realities of the OT text. Thus minor adjustments must be made in how scholars articulate various aspects of the doctrine of Scripture.

After laying a brief theological foundation and drawing attention to some features unique to the OT that figure into understanding the process of its inscripturation, the present article delineates some issues related to the concept of textual updating and examines several possible examples of inspired textual updating. After considering some ways in which evangelicals relate this idea of textual updating to a belief in inerrancy, I will survey several past and present proponents of the view proposed here. Finally, the paper will address a few of the objections that have been or could be raised against this proposal.



Millard Erickson defines inspiration as "that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the Scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or which resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God."' The apostle Paul affirmed that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim 3:16), and Peter wrote that "prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:21). The "inspiration" or "spiration" of the Scriptures, that is, the fact that they are God-breathed, emphasizes "the divine source and initiative rather than human genius or creativity."2 God's involvement in the process of inscripturation, that period of time in which the entirety of the Scriptures came into being, demonstrates that those Scriptures ultimately come from him.

While inspiration primarily concerns the quality of the finished product rather than the process of inscripturation, the divine-human authorship of the Scriptures raises the tension as to how those Scriptures came into being. Most scholars contend that the Holy Spirit superintended the biblical writers throughout the process of inscripturation. Whether it concerns a biblical book or books whose author is stated (like the Pentateuch) or a book or books that went through a longer period of composition and could have involved more than one writer (like Samuel, Kings, and the Psalms), the reality of the biblical doctrine of inspiration guarantees the accuracy and infallibility of the biblical book until it reaches its final stage of composition.

Building on the concept of inspiration, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states: "We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture."3 This brings up the question, "What constitutes an autograph or the autographa?" In general, scholars use the term "autographa" to refer to the first or original copies of the biblical documents, that is, the material that the author actually wrote himself.4 Its basic definition normally connotes the idea of the original writing of a biblical book. According to the customary definition in theological discussions, "autographa" refers to an unchanging form of text whereby the original document is identical to the final canonical form of a given OT biblical book. …

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