Tuesday, February 16, 2016

An Example Of A Valid Inerrancy Test

From the Errancy Discussion List, 11-14-95:

RH All right, I think inerrancy is a good test to use because the Bible is alleged to be the word of God and to be so, it must not contain any errors.

If the Bible contains errors, or is errant, it cannot be the word of God.

Inerrancy is one test that I think we should use to determine if the Bible is the word of God. What else is needed?

TILL: I don't think we are communicating on this point, Roger. I'm trying to find out how one can go about "testing for inerrancy." I can't really see that fundamentalists "test" inerrancy. When confronted with a text whose face-value meaning contradicts the face-value meaning of another text, they just arbitrarily assign a figurative or possible-but-unlikely meaning to one of the texts. I can't see that this is a valid way to test inerrancy. As I have offered to do in past postings, if you or anyone will send me an example of contradiction or inconsistency in a nonbiblical historical document, I will use inerrantist methods to show that the contradiction or inconsistency doesn't exist when my "explanation" is accepted. However, I can't see that such an explanation would constitute a valid test for inerrancy in the document, because it lacks corroborative proof and fails to recognize the possibility that errancy might actually exist in the text.

Let me give an example of what I think would constitute a valid inerrancy test. The Bible says that David killed a Philistine warrior named Goliath who had a spear whose"staff was like a weaver's beam" (1 Samuel 17:7), but 2 Samuel 21:19 says that the Philistine Goliath "whose spear was like a weaver's beam" was killed by Elhanan. Errantists consider this a "doublet" that found its way into the Bible by writers who incorporated two separate versions of a legend into 1 Samuel. In one legend, David killed Goliath; in the other Elhanan killed Goliath. Inerrantists, however, argue that this is not a doublet, but separate incidents. In other words, there were two Goliaths 'whose spear was like a weaver's beam." David killed one of the Goliaths; Elhanan killed the other. Period, end of the discussion! The discrepancy is resolved, and the Bible has passed the "test" of inerrancy.

Inerrantists, however, fail to realize that just because the postulation of two Goliaths conveniently resolves the problem, it in no way proves that there really were two Goliaths. However, the problem could be satisfactorily resolved if archaeologists should discover extrabiblical records left by the Philistines that clearly and unequivocally refer to the existence of two giants named Goliath. We would also need some kind of archaeological evidence that David existed, because many scholars consider him to be sort of the "King Arthur" of Hebrew folklore. To date, archaeologists have discovered only two very questionable references to David in nonbiblical references. Archaeologists have discovered nonbiblical references to Ahab, Omri, and several other Israelite kings less prominent than David but no indisputable references to David, the most famous king of them all, and this seems strange indeed in view of the prominence that he was given in biblical documents. So if confirmation of David's existence and the existence of two Goliaths could be obtained through extrabiblical records, this would be a reasonable confirmation of the Bible's accuracy in its references to two Goliaths. In the absence of such evidence, however, the two-Goliaths explanation of the inerrantists is pure speculation that proves nothing at all about the Bible's accuracy in this matter.

Farrell Till

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