Does Scripture affirm its own inerrancy? Some scholars say no. Yet, to suggest that Scripture doesn’t affirm its inerrancy is to ignore a significant amount of evidence to the contrary. Throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, Scripture affirms that it is the true Word of God, reliable and without error.
All Scripture is Breathed Out by God
First, we must recognize that Scripture is God’s Word. Second Timothy 3:16 teaches that the Bible is the product of God’s very breath. The focus of 2 Timothy 3:16 is on the text of Scripture as that which bears the quality of divine inspiration. Second Peter 1:16-21 affirms the divine origin of Scripture but emphasizes the means by which God produced it: men moved by the Holy Spirit wrote God’s Words. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21).
Inerrancy, therefore, is an entailment of inspiration. If God is holy and true, that which he breathes out will be holy and true. But it’s not merely an entailment or implication of inspiration; it is also the direct teaching of Scripture itself.
Psalm 19:7a: The Law of the Lord is Perfect
David’s reflection on the nature of God’s written word in Psalm 19 is a foundational text for developing a biblical understanding of inerrancy. The latter half of the Psalm is a celebration of God’s law, culminating in the kind of response you would expect of one who has discovered a priceless treasure: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold” (Ps 19:10a). The spiritual taste of God’s law was superior to the sweetness of the honeycomb (Ps 19:10b), and they provided David protection and promised reward for obedience (Ps 19:11). But why? Why was God’s law so valuable to David, and why did it provide both protection and the promise of reward? He tells us in verses 7-9 by describing the nature of Scripture itself. Today we will focus on the first phrase in the psalm.
David’s first description of God’s law is that it is perfect. The word translated perfect in most English translations is the Hebrew word tamin which means “blameless, whole, complete, without blemish, lacking in nothing.” The word is used most often throughout the OT to describe that kind of animals Israelites were to offer as a sacrifice: “This is the statute of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, and on which a yoke has never come (Num 19:2; emphasis added; see also Lev 1:3, 10, 4:28, 42; Num 6:14, 28:3; 28:9; 29:2, 8). Only animals without any discernable flaw were acceptable to God as a sacrificial offering. However an animal’s status was determined, it is clear that there was a recognizable, objective standard the animal had to meet in order to be considered “without blemish.”
When the word is used for God, therefore it must carry the connotation of total and comprehensive flawlessness. For example, Moses calls God the “Rock, whose work is perfect.” What does it mean that God’s work is perfect? Moses tells us, “for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut 32:4). There is absolutely nothing wrong with what God does: his work is perfect; it is always just, faithful, without iniquity, and upright. To suggest that there is even the smallest flaw in what God does is the very height of blasphemy.
When tamin is applied to God’s written Word, it is most natural for the word to carry the same connotations as when it is applied to the source of that written Word, namely God himself. In other words, to say that God’s Word is perfect is to say that it contains no flaw whatsoever. To suggest that God’s written word contains mistakes of any kind—whether they are minor historical missteps or major ethical blunders—does not do justice to the word tamin as it is applied to God or Scripture.
The implications are staggering and encouraging. The Word of God contains no flaws whatsoever. Every historical report, cosmological description, doctrinal assertion, geographic location, botanical reference, and proper name is true and reliable. To suggest otherwise is to introduce a “flaw” in the Scripture.
Maybe Just a Tiny, Little Flaw?
Some professing evangelicals have suggested that we must distinguish between the flawless theology of Scripture and leave room for Scripture to make minor errors in the incidentals like history, geography, and science. This distinction, however, cannot abide Psalm 19:7. How is it possible to hold up the Scripture and call it flawless, perfect, and without blemish while it contains a host of factual errors? David makes no such distinction, and neither do the rest of the biblical authors. Perfection, in this case, is comprehensive.
The truth is that God’s Word is without any blemish or flaw. It is, like its author, perfect. Let us, with renewed confidence, go to that Word to discover spiritual riches and delights that surpass the even the greatest material treasures or culinary enjoyments.
The word of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. – Psalm 19:7a