Is the Bible fallible because it was written in human languages?


Dear Jeffrey,

I am sorry that I have to turn to you for help, but this is why I am currently studying to be a preacher because people like you and many others inspire me to be able to teach. Unfortunately I have wasted away much of my life after vain things, such as coaching and pursuing things of no value. At least I am where I am now and I am working hard to obtain the knowledge necessary to combat false doctrine and help stand for truth. But until I can consume the Scriptures, I must ask for help.

Below is an email response I got from this pastor who allows gays and does not think homosexuality is a sin because he claims the Bible is fallible. This was his response after I challenged him to support his teaching with Scripture:

I cannot emphasize enough that I use to believe just as you do. I have heard all of the arguments and I found them lacking. In fact, I abandoned the idea of the infallibility in order to continue to follow Jesus Christ. I could no longer reconcile the two together.

The other thing I would emphasize is that the Bible as the Holy Scriptures are still my primary guide and place for authority. For you, infallibility is what gives you trust in the Scriptures and you probably can't imagine how the Scriptures can be authoritative unless they are infallible. Although that might be a difficult concept, the fact remains that millions of Christians throughout history and today hold the Scriptures in high regard and see them as inspirational and yet do not believe in infallibility.

Next, it's very difficult to be a student of history, understanding how the Bible developed, and to also believe in infallibility. When you look at the time frame it took for the Bible to come about, the many disputed books that were wrangled over and why the early church chose the ones they did, it's hard to believe in infallibility.

Third, you begin to get into a logical fallacy with human language. By nature, human language is fallible, imperfect and incomplete. Thus, anything written in human language is fallible. There is no way of getting around that. Thus, the Bible has to be fallible as it is written in human language.

Fourth, since we do not have the original manuscripts, we know that our current manuscripts are at the best only 98-99% the same. That alone makes them fallible. When you take into account that the book of Jeremiah differs is only about 40-60% consistent between Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

Finally, Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible is a witness that points to the Ultimate Word who is Jesus Christ. The nature of Truth is that it cannot be contained in a book or writings. Writings are human constructs. Instead, God chose to reveal himself through a Person. Truth must be conveyed via person-hood rather than written words. God became human for that was the only way. Since Jesus is the infallible Word of God, anything less than him as a person is by nature incomplete. Thus, the Bible can only serve as a witness - a human writing witness that by nature of human language must be fallible.


"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:27).

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (II Peter 1:2-4).

"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you" (I Peter 1:22-25).

This man's assertions are a logical conclusion gained from realizing that his position is not supportable by the Bible. Thus, the only way to retain his position is to claim that there are errors in the biblical text so that he feels justified when he alters the meaning.

He confuses infallibility of a translation with infallibility of the original text. I don't know of anyone who claims any translation is infallible, but many do accept that the original text was infallible. Here is a good definition of what is meant by infallibility:

"The Bible in its entirety is God's written word to man, free of error in its original autographs, wholly reliable in history and doctrine. Its divine inspiration has rendered the Book 'infallible' (incapable of teaching deception) and 'inerrant' (not liable to prove false or mistaken). Its inspiration is 'plenary' (extending to all parts alike), 'verbal' (including the actual language form), and 'confluent' (a product of two free agents, human and divine). Inspiration involves infallibility as essential property, and infallibility in turn implies inerrancy." [Clark H. Pinnock, A Defense of Biblical Infallibility, p. 1].

The Bible is incapable of teaching deception because it was breathed from the very mouth of God -- that is what "inspired of God" literally means in II Timothy 3:16. Yet, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Notice that this man denies that the Bible is inspired in the biblical sense. He sees inspiration more as a sunset inspires a painter. The writers of the Bible, though, claim to have been given the very words which they wrote. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:12-13).

His claim that the current text of the Bible is only 98-99% accurate is without evidence and is purposely low. In truth, less than 0.5% of the text is in dispute. See: Can We Trust the Text of the Bible? for detailed information.

Even here we have a deception being offered by this man: Does are any of the passages dealing with homosexuality in dispute? The answer is "no." Truth be told almost all the disputes deal with minor word variations that do not change our understanding regarding what the Bible teaches.

He also argues that all human languages are too fallible to transmit an infallible text. Thus, he is claiming that he cannot accurately make himself understood. And without communication, there is not reason to talk to him since he cannot accurately relay his thoughts to anyone else. His argument that the Bible has to be fallible because it is written in fallible language fails because the argument is written in fallible language, so it too must be fallible. The argument fails the self-contradiction test.

He also ignores that the words in the Bible came directly from God. If anyone should know how to communicate His thoughts, it would be the Creator of man and man's languages. That the Bible's message is meant to be understood and can be understood is seen in these passages:

"How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" (Ephesians 3:3-4).

"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17).

"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain" (I Corinthians 15:1-2).

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (I John 1:1-4).