You were a goddess of perfection when you were young, but not so much now.
“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee”(Eze 28:15, KJV).
Traditionally this is applied to Satan, but could it also apply to Scripture? Most religious scholars today and thereby even the rest of us common Christians often demonstrate the view that it now affects the Holy Bible as well. But is that valid?
Is the Holy Bible a once perfect document that now perpetuates errors that limit our ability to trust what it says?
The term infallible, as applied to Scripture, carries with it the idea of perfection, but there is often a lingering question as to what extent we are applying this label of perfection. Other than in reference to the nature of God himself, to define something as “without error” requires a further identification of boundaries.
For example, when an Olympic diver or gymnast nails his performance and scores a perfect 10, that is perfection – it has been deemed as “without error”. However, that is the boundary limit of that athletes perfection. Some girls might also score him a perfect 10, but again, that does not mean that his apparent perfection extends to all possible areas of his life.
When a skilled contractor turns over the key to a custom-built house to the owners and hears the accolade, “this is perfect”, it would be presumptuous on his part to interpret that compliment as meaning that the house was free of all scratch marks and that there could be no improvements ever made to that house. What the owner meant was that the house exactly matches the communicated desires of that owner.
When a cancer-survivor goes in for her final checkup and hears the thrilling news that the malignant cells are completely gone – that she is perfectly healthy – nothing should diminish her gratitude. And yet, the doctor was limiting his comments to his area of expertise and the specific issue of the recent cancer. He was not implying that she has just received the fountain of youth and would never get old on account of her “perfect health”.
The same caution needs to be exercised in how we apply the term infallible to Scripture. The original documents are no longer available, so to imply that ancient manuscripts available today are exact copies in absolutely every respect is absurd.
It is not possible to duplicate the original parchment and ink. It is impossible to copy the original handwriting so that the old and new are indistinguishable. Likely wrinkles, nicks, and aging fingerprints on the originals will not be repeated in perfect duplication. And yet through the historic preservation of Scripture it still remains possible to score a perfect 10 in meaning.
Incidental errors in transcription that do not change the original intent do not invalidate the claim of infallibility. Translations from one language to another are handicapped by the lack of words with exactly the same definition, but so long as the original meaning remains imbedded within those new words, the preservation of what the author intended is not necessarily harmed.
The issue of infallibility is not a question of document repetition but of communicated message. Certainly the documents show evidence of minor variances, but that does not prevent identification of inerrancy in the message, which is really the issue when it comes to trusting what it says.
Linguistically this is also confirmed in the latest Harper Collins dictionary. Notice the primary emphasis is trustworthiness:
Infallible [in-fal-uh-buhl]; adj
- absolutely trustworthy or sure
- unfailing in effectiveness or operation
- exempt from liability or error
Consider that the word inerrant is just a subset of infallible with the primary definition the same as point 3 above and its second definition using just the word “infallible”.
So, in spite of incidental differences, does Scripture continue to convey the same intended meaning from the original? If so, then within that boundary it can be rightly attributed the rare score of infallible perfection.
God declares about the record of his own word:
“the word of the Lord is flawless” (Psa 18:30).
Three times God confirms:
“but my word will never disappear” (Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lu 21:33).
And with regard to the human writers of Scripture:
“All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).
God thunders from his throne that Scripture is eternally infallible. No allowance is accepted for dismissing Scripture as outdated or unreliable. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can trust in detail what the Bible says.
Are you willing to trust and obey, even when the requirements seem difficult?