Click on the following link to make a donation: https://biblearchaeology.org/supportabr
- Category: General Content
- Category: General Content
The ministry of ABR receives regular inquiries about the chronology of the Ancient Near East and its correlation with the Bible. In response to these inquiries, and numerous serious misunderstandings about ABR's views concerning ANE chronology and the authority of the Bible, we affirm the following:
On Creation, Fall and the Flood
1. A recent, 6 day (six 24-hour days) creation, thousands of years ago. We reject all forms of old-earth creationism, theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis, the gap theory and progressive creationism.
2. A cosmic and anthropologically universal Fall from an original state of innocence due to Adam’s sin.
On the Chronology from the Flood to Abraham
1. Although this subject was never an area of focus for our research staff, ABR has always believed in the historicity of the Genesis 11 patriarchs. The general view of the ABR staff has historically been that there was some fluidity (gaps) in the genealogical data from Genesis 11, but the data could not be understood to date the Flood beyond 4000 or 5000 BC at most. The general tenets of this view can be found in the appendix of The Genesis Flood, published by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961. Based mainly on archaeological considerations, ABR founder Dr. David Livingston dated the Flood to around 3000 B.C. The general affirmation of the ABR staff has historically been that the creation is less than 10,000 years old.
2. Since 2010, with the full support of ABR Director of Research Dr. Bryant Wood, ABR staff member Henry Smith has been looking more closely into the chronology from the Flood to Abraham. We have concluded that the fluidity interpretation (chronological gaps in the genealogies) is exegetically and hermeneutically untenable, and that the arguments offered by Whitcomb and Morris (and other scholars) need to be revisited. Not all ABR staff members have been involved with this project, and thus, hold a variety of views generally accepted in theologically conservative circles concerning pre-Abrahamic chronology.
3. Based on these developments, ABR has determined that an ongoing and in-depth research project into the chronology between the Flood and Abraham is required before we advocate a firm date for the Flood.
a. A full text-critical investigation of the Genesis 5 and 11 numerical data in the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. All three of these ancient witnesses contain divergent numbers in the genealogies of both Genesis 5 and 11.
c. A detailed study of external witnesses to Genesis 5 and 11 in ancient Jewish literature, the early Church Fathers, and a number of other related sub-sections of such a study.
ABR is not presently prepared to advocate all of the numbers of the Masoretic Text as original to Genesis 5 and 11 unless further research leads to such a conclusion.
d. Based on preliminary investigations, an acceptance of the matching SP/LXX begetting ages for each patriarch as the original text of Genesis 11 would date the Flood around 3300 BC. The begetting age for each patriarch is the key number for calculating the chronology of this period. This is probably the outer possible date of the Flood. Any archaeological/historical dates that go back beyond this time range would be considered incorrect and subject to emendation and correction.
4. We reject the conventional dates given for Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic archaeological remains. These dates--and the 14-C method itself which they largely depend upon-- are highly suspect, being deeply influenced by evolutionary and naturalistic presuppositions and a de facto rejection of the scope of the Flood in advance. This includes dates for the establishment of Egypt and other ANE civilizations that are based solely or primarily on 14-C dating. None of these so-called pre-historic archaeological remains should be dated before the Flood and these archaeological and anthropological remains should be properly understood as humans repopulating the world in an early, post-Flood context.
On Radically Revising Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian Chronology in the Second and First Millennium BC
1. ABR recognizes that the standard dating for Egypt before the 12th Dynasty (ca. 1979 BC) is highly dependent on 14-C dating. Based on the outermost possible date for the Flood from biblical texts tentatively outlined above (ca. 3300 BC), many of the dates given by the secular chronologies for both Egypt and other civilizations before 2000 BC are not viable and require revision because of this dependence on 14-C dating.
However, we reject the notion that adjusting the dating of these dynasties in the third millennium BC (especially the Old Kingdom) necessarily entails a domino effect that demands the wholesale revision of Egyptian/ANE chronology on the order of centuries down into the second and first millennium BC.
2. We believe that various attempts to radically revise (by centuries) conventional Egyptian chronology from ca. 2000 B.C. down into the second and first millennium BC are unwarranted, unnecessary, and untenable.
Archaeological and historical dates from this period are derived from fairly reliable data, such as:
- Written texts
- Astronomical data
- Ceramic typology
- Architectural tendencies and practices
- Cultural practices
- Major events in the archaeological strata (fires and earthquakes)
- Treaties between nation-states
- Royal decrees
- Private communications
3. This enormous wealth of data all converges to assist the historian in determining reasonably reliable dates for events in the ancient world. Any particular piece of data can be crossed-checked versus other known data to test it for accuracy. We believe these dating methods, while not infallible, are generally reliable primarily because they are tethered to human activity, which has an eyewitness dimension to it.
4. We recognize that eyewitnesses can be untruthful and/or in error. For example, ancient kings were notorious for exaggerating their deeds and diminishing or ignoring those of their foes. However, a king who exaggerated his accomplishments in battle against another country in year "X" of his reign did not generally lie about when the battle happened, only about its result. Thus, much useful historical information can be gleaned from the annals of kings, despite their exaggerated claims.
5. The radical revision of Egyptian chronology demands that the chronologies of many other civilizations across the ANE also be rewritten. Egypt had countless dealings with numerous other nation-states, such as the Hittites, the Sea Peoples (Philistines), the Canaanites, the Amorites, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, Nubia, and of course, Israel. Hundreds of synchronisms from the archaeological record during the post 2000 BC era already exist, some of which are cited on this website in a variety of articles. These synchronizations agree with the biblical dates and cultural setting. Radical revisionism serves to destroy these manifold correlations, undermining their already strong and highly useful apologetic value.
6. We believe that those who advocate such reconstructions have been and will continue to be woefully unsuccessful at resolving the thousands of new synchronization problems that the wholesale disruption of Egyptian chronology creates, even if one were to assume that said advocates have the requisite expertise to revise the histories of all of the applicable and interrelated civilizations.
No single person could possibly have a grasp of all these thousands of implications or the requisite knowledge required to revise the entire chronology of the ANE.
Unfortunately, the ABR staff has discovered through experience and interaction that many advocates of such revisionism operate as "lone rangers" who have little or no formal training in either biblical exegesis and/or ANE history, are unaccountable to trained experts in these varied fields, and lack an "iron sharpening iron" dynamic. The radical revisionists often derisively berate all those who doubt their revised chronologies and have sometimes accused ABR of compromising on the authority of Scripture.
We have yet to hear any argument that demonstrates how a rejection of radical ANE chronological revisionism shows that ABR has compromised on Scripture's authority. People are free to believe and advocate whatever they wish concerning ANE history, but such advocacy should be performed in a spirit of Christian charity and with academic accountability.
We therefore urge the Church to stop using apologetic arguments that entail this type of revisionism and seriously take into account arguments that disprove their veracity.
7. We affirm that no secular chronology is infallible. However, the general reliability of Egyptian and ANE chronologies from this period (post 2000 BC) is affirmed by the quality of their synchronisms with the inerrant and infallible chronological data found in Scripture. Thus, as the infallible measuring stick, Scripture informs us that ANE chronology from 2000 BC onwards is generally accurate.
8. While all dating methods entail certain unprovable assumptions, we believe the matrix of data listed above minimizes large errors in chronology because the assumptions can be scrutinized from multiple angles.
Hundreds of examples from the archaeological and historical record demonstrate how conventional dating from the ANE/Egypt during the first and second millennium BC is generally in line with the Bible.
9. Conversely, 14-C and other dating methods are not inherently tethered to human activity. These methods are of a different order because their assumptions are overtly evolutionary and unbiblical (denial of the Flood, assumption of long-ages, and so forth). Thus, archaeological dating methods should not be lumped into the same general category as other dating methods such as: radiometric/radiocarbon dating, tree rings, ice cores, geological strata, and so forth.
On the Sojourn, Exodus, Conquest, Judges Era, and the Divided Kingdom
1. We believe that the length of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt is 430 years (the so-called Long Sojourn view) going back from the Exodus (1446 BC) to Jacob’s arrival in Egypt (1876 BC). This chronological view seems to have the best exegetical and textual support. We believe the Short-Sojourn view disrupts many of the excellent synchronisms between archaeology and the Bible from the birth of Abraham through the time of Joshua.
2. We believe that the date for the Exodus from Egypt is 1446 BC and the conquest of Canaan began in 1406 BC. These dates are based on the internal chronology of the Bible and are affirmed by a wealth of data in the archaeological and historical record. These dates are strongly affirmed by the evidence found in our own excavations in Israel at Khirbet el-Maqatir (Joshua’s Ai), and our extensive research on the destruction of the cities of Jericho and Hazor during the period of the Conquest. Archaeological evidence for the occupation and subsequent destruction of these three Canaanite/Amorite cities agrees with the biblical text and thereby confirms the accuracy of conventional Egyptian/ANE chronology from this period. Radically revising Egyptian chronology destroys such important synchronisms between the Bible and the archaeological record.
3. Based on the exhaustive research of ABR Associate Rodger C. Young and the ABR staff generally, we believe the period of the Divided Kingdom was 345 years. The construction of Solomon’s Temple began in 967 BC and Solomon died in 931 BC. These dates are verified through an examination of over 120 pieces of data found in the relevant biblical texts, and are affirmed in hundreds of ways in the archaeological and historical record. We acknowledge Archbishop Ussher's 17th century work in this area, but believe that subsequent scholarship has refined and brought correction to Ussher’s Divided Kingdom chronology.
Our 50 years of ABR's published research on the Sojourn-Exodus-Conquest-Judges narratives of the Bible and associated archaeological discoveries utterly destroy any notion that ANE/Egyptian chronology during the second millennium BC can be revised by centuries.
We trust that this statement is received by our supporters in the spirit with which it is intended: to clearly communicate our present position and to clarify our understanding of Scriptural authority and its relation to ANE archaeological discoveries and chronology.
The ABR staff is absolutely committed to the authority, inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, as outlined in our Statement of Faith and our affirmation of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
- Category: General Content
The most foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is the Doctrine of Scripture, for in the pages of Holy Scripture we find the revelation of God concerning Himself and His glorious Son, Jesus Christ. All of Christian doctrine is found in the pages of Scripture, and thus it is our absolute foundation of knowledge and truth.
This doctrine continues to be under assault from within the ranks of the Church, and of course, by those outside the faith. In the interest of clearly communicating to ABR supporters, sincere seekers, and the Church at large, the ABR staff hereby reiterates its affirmation of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which clearly and concisely spells out our understanding of the Bible and its inherent Divine authority. In addition to the Chicago Statement itself, the ABR staff has provided minor comments denoted by an asterisk * at the end of the Chicago Statement. These comments bear directly on ABRâ€™s mission as an archaeological and apologetic research ministry, but are not intended to amend the Statement itself.
We trust that this reiteration will help to clearly communicate the absolute foundation of the ABR mission: To affirm the Bible as the very Word of the Living God and to proclaim the truth of the Gospel.
The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy
The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.
The following Statement affirms this inerrancy of Scripture afresh, making clear our understanding of it and warning against its denial. We are persuaded that to deny it is to set aside the witness of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit and to refuse that submission to the claims of God's own Word which marks true Christian faith. We see it as our timely duty to make this affirmation in the face of current lapses from the truth of inerrancy among our fellow Christians and misunderstandings of this doctrine in the world at large.
This Statement consists of three parts: a Summary Statement, Articles of Affirmation and Denial, and an accompanying Exposition. It has been prepared in the course of a three-day consultation in Chicago. Those who have signed the Summary Statement and the Articles wish to affirm their own conviction as to the inerrancy of Scripture and to encourage and challenge one another and all Christians to growing appreciation and understanding of this doctrine. We acknowledge the limitations of a document prepared in a brief, intensive conference and do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight. Yet we rejoice in the deepening of our own convictions through our discussions together, and we pray that the Statement we have signed may be used to the glory of our God toward a new reformation of the Church in its faith, life, and mission.
We offer this Statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by God's grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said. We gladly acknowledge that many who deny the inerrancy of Scripture do not display the consequences of this denial in the rest of their belief and behavior, and we are conscious that we who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the divine Word.
We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak. We claim no personal infallibility for the witness we bear, and for any help which enables us to strengthen this testimony to God's Word we shall be grateful.
— The Draft Committee
A Short Statement
1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.
2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.
3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.
5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.
WE DENY that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source.
WE AFFIRM that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.
WE DENY that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.
WE AFFIRM that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.
WE DENY that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or depends on the responses of men for its validity.
WE AFFIRM that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.
WE DENY that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God's work of inspiration.
WE AFFIRM that God's revelation within the Holy Scriptures was progressive.
WE DENY that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.
WE AFFIRM that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.
WE DENY that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.
WE DENY that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.
WE AFFIRM that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.
WE DENY that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.
WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God's Word.
WE AFFIRM that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.
WE DENY that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
WE DENY that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.
WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
WE AFFIRM the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.
WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.
WE AFFIRM the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.
WE DENY that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.
WE DENY that Jesus' teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.
WE AFFIRM that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church's faith throughout its history.
WE DENY that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.
WE AFFIRM that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God's written Word.
WE DENY that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.
WE AFFIRM that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.
WE DENY the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.
WE AFFIRM that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
WE DENY that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.
Our understanding of the doctrine of inerrancy must be set in the context of the broader teachings of the Scripture concerning itself. This exposition gives an account of the outline of doctrine from which our summary statement and articles are drawn. Creation, Revelation and Inspiration
The Triune God, who formed all things by his creative utterances and governs all things by His Word of decree, made mankind in His own image for a life of communion with Himself, on the model of the eternal fellowship of loving communication within the Godhead. As God's image-bearer, man was to hear God's Word addressed to him and to respond in the joy of adoring obedience. Over and above God's self-disclosure in the created order and the sequence of events within it, human beings from Adam on have received verbal messages from Him, either directly, as stated in Scripture, or indirectly in the form of part or all of Scripture itself.
When Adam fell, the Creator did not abandon mankind to final judgment but promised salvation and began to reveal Himself as Redeemer in a sequence of historical events centering on Abraham's family and culminating in the life, death, resurrection, present heavenly ministry, and promised return of Jesus Christ. Within this frame God has from time to time spoken specific words of judgment and mercy, promise and command, to sinful human beings so drawing them into a covenant relation of mutual commitment between Him and them in which He blesses them with gifts of grace and they bless Him in responsive adoration. Moses, whom God used as mediator to carry His words to His people at the time of the Exodus, stands at the head of a long line of prophets in whose mouths and writings God put His words for delivery to Israel. God's purpose in this succession of messages was to maintain His covenant by causing His people to know His Nameâ€”that is, His natureâ€”and His will both of precept and purpose in the present and for the future. This line of prophetic spokesmen from God came to completion in Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Word, who was Himself a prophetâ€”more than a prophet, but not lessâ€”and in the apostles and prophets of the first Christian generation. When God's final and climactic message, His word to the world concerning Jesus Christ, had been spoken and elucidated by those in the apostolic circle, the sequence of revealed messages ceased. Henceforth the Church was to live and know God by what He had already said, and said for all time.
At Sinai God wrote the terms of His covenant on tables of stone, as His enduring witness and for lasting accessibility, and throughout the period of prophetic and apostolic revelation He prompted men to write the messages given to and through them, along with celebratory records of His dealings with His people, plus moral reflections on covenant life and forms of praise and prayer for covenant mercy. The theological reality of inspiration in the producing of Biblical documents corresponds to that of spoken prophecies: although the human writers' personalities were expressed in what they wrote, the words were divinely constituted. Thus, what Scripture says, God says; its authority is His authority, for He is its ultimate Author, having given it through the minds and words of chosen and prepared men who in freedom and faithfulness "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). Holy Scripture must be acknowledged as the Word of God by virtue of its divine origin. Authority: Christ and the Bible
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the Word made flesh, our Prophet, Priest, and King, is the ultimate Mediator of God's communication to man, as He is of all God's gifts of grace. The revelation He gave was more than verbal; He revealed the Father by His presence and His deeds as well. Yet His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His words will judge all men at the last day.
As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture. The Old Testament looked ahead to Him; the New Testament looks back to His first coming and on to His second. Canonical Scripture is the divinely inspired and therefore normative witness to Christ. No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable. Holy Scripture must be treated as what it essentially isâ€”the witness of the Father to the Incarnate Son.
It appears that the Old Testament canon had been fixed by the time of Jesus. The New Testament canon is likewise now closed inasmuch as no new apostolic witness to the historical Christ can now be borne. No new revelation (as distinct from Spirit-given understanding of existing revelation) will be given until Christ comes again. The canon was created in principle by divine inspiration. The Church's part was to discern the canon which God had created, not to devise one of its own.
The word canon, signifying a rule or standard, is a pointer to authority, which means the right to rule and control. Authority in Christianity belongs to God in His revelation, which means, on the one hand, Jesus Christ, the living Word, and, on the other hand, Holy Scripture, the written Word. But the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one. As our Prophet, Christ testified that Scripture cannot be broken. As our Priest and King, He devoted His earthly life to fulfilling the law and the prophets, even dying in obedience to the words of Messianic prophecy. Thus, as He saw Scripture attesting Him and His authority, so by His own submission to Scripture He attested its authority. As He bowed to His Father's instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament), so He requires His disciples to doâ€”not, however, in isolation but in conjunction with the apostolic witness to Himself which He undertook to inspire by His gift of the Holy Spirit. So Christians show themselves faithful servants of their Lord by bowing to the divine instruction given in the prophetic and apostolic writings which together make up our Bible.
By authenticating each other's authority, Christ and Scripture coalesce into a single fount of authority. The Biblically-interpreted Christ and the Christ-centered, Christ-proclaiming Bible are from this standpoint one. As from the fact of inspiration we infer that what Scripture says, God says, so from the revealed relation between Jesus Christ and Scripture we may equally declare that what Scripture says, Christ says.
Infallibility, Inerrancy, Interpretation
Holy Scripture, as the inspired Word of God witnessing authoritatively to Jesus Christ, may properly be called infallible and inerrant. These negative terms have a special value, for they explicitly safeguard crucial positive truths.
lnfallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters.
Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman's milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.
So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.
The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by the appearance in it of irregularities of grammar or spelling, phenomenal descriptions of nature, reports of false statements (e.g., the lies of Satan), or seeming discrepancies between one passage and another. It is not right to set the so-called "phenomena" of Scripture against the teaching of Scripture about itself. Apparent inconsistencies should not be ignored. Solution of them, where this can be convincingly achieved, will encourage our faith, and where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall significantly honor God by trusting His assurance that His Word is true, despite these appearances, and by maintaining our confidence that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.
Inasmuch as all Scripture is the product of a single divine mind, interpretation must stay within the bounds of the analogy of Scripture and eschew hypotheses that would correct one Biblical passage by another, whether in the name of progressive revelation or of the imperfect enlightenment of the inspired writer's mind.
Although Holy Scripture is nowhere culture-bound in the sense that its teaching lacks universal validity, it is sometimes culturally conditioned by the customs and conventional views of a particular period, so that the application of its principles today calls for a different sort of action.
Skepticism and Criticism
Since the Renaissance, and more particularly since the Enlightenment, world-views have been developed which involve skepticism about basic Christian tenets. Such are the agnosticism which denies that God is knowable, the rationalism which denies that He is incomprehensible, the idealism which denies that He is transcendent, and the existentialism which denies rationality in His relationships with us. When these un- and anti-biblical principles seep into men's theologies at [a] presuppositional level, as today they frequently do, faithful interpretation of Holy Scripture becomes impossible.
Transmission and Translation
Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit's constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).
Inerrancy and Authority
In our affirmation of the authority of Scripture as involving its total truth, we are consciously standing with Christ and His apostles, indeed with the whole Bible and with the main stream of Church history from the first days until very recently. We are concerned at the casual, inadvertent, and seemingly thoughtless way in which a belief of such far-reaching importance has been given up by so many in our day.
We are conscious too that great and grave confusion results from ceasing to maintain the total truth of the Bible whose authority one professes to acknowledge. The result of taking this step is that the Bible which God gave loses its authority, and what has authority instead is a Bible reduced in content according to the demands of one's critical reasonings and in principle reducible still further once one has started. This means that at bottom independent reason now has authority, as opposed to Scriptural teaching. If this is not seen and if for the time being basic evangelical doctrines are still held, persons denying the full truth of Scripture may claim an evangelical identity while methodologically they have moved away from the evangelical principle of knowledge to an unstable subjectivism, and will find it hard not to move further.
We affirm that what Scripture says, God says. May He be glorified. Amen and Amen.
*Brief Comments from the ABR Staff
1. The ABR staff affirms that the 39 books of the Old Testament, and the 27 books of the New Testament, 66 books in total, are the very Word of God written. All other books are of human origin, and have no binding authority on the Church or the ABR ministry.
2. The ABR staff denies that any archaeological discovery or interpretation of any archaeological discovery may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture with regard to the historical events recorded therein.