The following article is from *The Skeptical Review*, January-February 1991:
By Farrell Till
Is there no limit to what bibliolaters will resort to in order to defend the inerrancy doctrine? We thought we had heard just about every desperate grasping for straws possible on this subject until we received the October 1990 issue of the Christian Courier. On a front-page article entitled "The God of Infinite Knowledge," editor Wayne Jackson, who is also a staff writer for Apologetics Press of Montgomery, Alabama, made this incredible attempt to prove the inspiration of the Bible:
How did Paul know the names of the magicians who opposed Moses (2 Tim. 3:8)? This information is nowhere found in the Old Testament. Obviously the God of history inspired the writing of this epistle to Timothy.
The passage Mr. Jackson alluded to in this "argument" says in its entirety, "And even as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these (ungodly men) also withstand the truth; men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the truth.
As invariably happens when a bibliolater formulates an inerrancy argument, Mr. Jackson assumes far more than his "evidence" warrants. For example, Paul (or whoever wrote 2 Timothy) identified Jannes and Jambres only as opposers of Moses; he did not specify that they were the magicians who had opposed Moses. Since Moses (if we are to believe the Bible) was often opposed during the wilderness trek by unnamed adversaries, one might as well, in the total absence of any historical record of who Jannes and Jambres were, identify them as the leaders of one of those many rebellions as to say that they were pharaoh's magicians who opposed Moses during the inflicting of the plagues. If not, why not? We will gladly give Mr. Jackson space in our next issue to explain how he knows that Paul meant for us to understand that these men were pharaoh's magicians rather than some other adversaries of Moses.
If he accepts the invitation, he should be able make a good case for his claim that Paul was referring to pharaoh's magicians, but in building that case, he would reduce his "argument" for inspiration to nothing. As Mr. Jackson correctly said, the names Jannes and Jambres were "nowhere found in the Old Testament," but there was a widely circulated tradition in both secular and apocryphal writings that they were pharaoh's magicians. They were mentioned in The Gospel of Nicodemus, The Acts of Peter, and The Acts of Paul and were frequently referred to by early writers like Pliny, Apuleius, and Numenius. In these writings, various claims were made about them. One source (Yalkut Reubeni) said that they were proselytized and left Egypt in the Hebrew exodus; another (Tikkunim) claimed that they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calves while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. In Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, James H. Charlesworth, a leading authority on apocryphal literature, said this of Jannes and Jambres:
The names of Jannes and Jambres appear with considerable frequency in ancient and medieval sources, and traditions about their activity and fate are extant in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Greek, and Latin. Christian, Jewish, and pagan writers found occasion to refer to these two magicians at the Pharaonic court who plied the art of magic in opposition to Moses....
It is now beyond doubt that in antiquity there existed, on the one hand, traditions about Jannes and Jambres, and on the other, a book that detailed some of their exploits. Not yet entirely clear, however, is the precise relationship between the loose traditions and the written composition (Vol. 2, p. 427).
Obviously, then, a widely known oral and written tradition that Jannes and Jambres were pharaoh's magicians existed before and during the time that 2 Timothy was written. To say that a simple reference to this tradition constitutes wonderful proof that the Bible was inspired of God is typical of the superficial thinking that characterizes most arguments used to defend the inerrancy doctrine. Upon careful scrutiny, they are invariably found to be empty of substance.
Even in the absence of the body of tradition that identified Jannes and Jambres as pharaoh's magicians, there would still be no proof of divine inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:8. As noted earlier, without tradition to aid in interpreting this passage, one could never know if the writer was referring to pharaoh's magicians or to two of the many other adversaries Moses had to confront as leader of the exodus. Furthermore, without the tradition, the writer could have whimsically used just any names, and there would have been no criterion to use in evaluating the accuracy of the information. If, for example, a writer should say that Jeeter and Joomer were the leaders of the rebellion against Moses at Meribah (Num. 20:2-13), would this prove (since the names of these leaders are "nowhere found in the Old Testament") that the writer was inspired of God in so saying or would it prove nothing more than maybe he had just made up the names? We'll just let Mr. Jackson and those who may have been impressed with his argument try to escape the cutting edge of Occam's razor on this point.
The real tragedy in this matter, however, is not that bibliolaters like Mr. Jackson would have no more intellectual pride than to offer such superficial arguments as this one in support of the inerrancy doctrine but that so many of their readers will gullibly accept them without critical analysis. It is a syndrome that enables Bible fundamentalism to survive in an era that should have laid the inerrancy doctrine to rest long ago.