Why biblical inerrancy is critical:
A major concern occurs when the Bible is considered to be totally inerrant, in its teaching of theology, morals, beliefs, geology, geography, history, etc. If it is so considered, then it leaves the individual's faith vulnerable. Even one proven error can shatter the whole belief system and make the Bible seem useless to some believers: "If in actual fact Caesar Augustus did not really order a census while Quirinius was governor of Syria - if it turns out there really was only one Gadarene demonaic rather than two - then the entire Bible becomes worthless and every tenet of Christian faith falls flat. If one single discrepancy emerges, it's all over. This makes Christian faith an easy target for skeptics, and drives believers to unimaginable lengths to 'defend' the Bible."
Problems with inerrancyInterpretation Conflicts:
This is perhaps the most serious problem associated with inerrancy. Some biblical passages can be interpreted in so many different ways, that there is no way to know which interpretation is the correct one.People bring different foundational beliefs to the Bible. This causes them to reach very different conclusions about what it says. ....A second, more widespread, example involves the Christian faith groups in North America, which number in excess of 1,000. All or essentially all believe that their group's beliefs are based on the Bible. Many take the position that they are the "true" church. Yet their belief systems differ. There appears to be no way to resolve these different interpretations. Some have suggested that believers assess the will of God on theological matters. But this appears to be ineffective.
Translation errors due to source ambiguity:
Inerrancy of the Bible refers only to the original, autograph copies of each book, as written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Hebrew is an extremely ambiguous language. Some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) may be interpreted in many different ways. At most, only one of those translations would be correct, and thus be inerrant. But there is no way in which we can know for certain which translation is the correct one....The inclusion/exclusion of the Apocraypha:The Bible used by Jesus, his disciples, and the early Christian movement was the Septuagint (a.k.a. LXX). This was a Greek translation from the original Hebrew. It included a number of books that are commonly called the Apocrypha. These books appear in the translations of the Bible used by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Anglican churches, but have been deleted in the translations used by Protestants and most Anglicans. One reason for this rejection was a passage which implies the existence of Purgatory. Thus, the range of books in the Bible which are to be considered inerrant is open to debate among Christians. However, in any given denomination, the official canon is firmly established.
The selection of the Christian Scriptures:
There were three main movements within early Christianity: the Jewish Christians, Pauline Christians and Gnostics. Among them, there were on the order of fifty gospels, probably hundreds of epistles (letters), and many examples of apocalyptic literature similar to Revelation. All were considered authorative by various early Christian groups. When the Bishops fixed the official canon, they selected the Hebrew Scriptures, and 27 books: four gospels, Acts, 21 epistles, and Revelation. The concept of inerrancy requires that they did not err in their selection: that the authors of precisely these 27 books were inspired by God and wrote without error. This would imply that their selection process must have been guided by God so that fraudulent books were not chosen. The Gospel of John was almost rejected by the early Church because of its Gnostic content. Revelation almost did not make it into the Bible either, because it described God in angry, hateful terms that seemed incompatible with the loving Abba (Dad) that Jesus prayed to. When Emperor Constantine ordered 50 copies of the Bible to be copied, they included The Letter of Barnabas and The Shepard of Hermes -- two books that do not appear in today's Bibles."The Canon evolved obscurely over many centuries. Books were accepted by some and banned by others. Books accepted for centuries were rejected later. Rival church factions excluded each other's scriptures. Personality clashes and rival ambitions were responsible for the disappearance of much that scholars would like to read today."
Biblical scholars have noted that almost every page of the Bible, whether written in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek contains both spelling and grammatical errors. Although some spelling errors could be attributed to mistakes by later copyists, it appears reasonable to assume that some of the grammatical errors were in the original copy. If one assumes that the Bible is not inerrant, then one would expect errors of all types to creep into the Bible: errors in fact, errors in belief, errors in spelling and errors in grammar. But if the Bible is inerrant, one wonders why the original writings were not free of errors in grammar.
Intentional translation errors:
No Bible translation is free of bias. Essentially all versions are the product of translators who come from a similar theological background. Being human, they sometimes produce versions of the Bible that tend to match their own belief systems. ....Many Bible translations contain what appear to be intentional errors in relation to some acts. ....
A small number of conservative Christians believe that a particular English translation of the Bible is inerrant. Often this is the King James Version, prepared in 1611 CE. Most believe that it is only the original autograph copy as written by the author in Hebrew, Aramaic and/or Greek which is inerrant. This leaves open the possibility that subsequent manual copying introduced mistakes into the book. Thus, later copies may be errant. Often, we have no way of detecting where errors or later insertions have occurred.
Symbolic vs. Literal Interpretation:
Not all passages in the Bible can be interpreted literally. ...
Some passages in the Bible appear at first glance to be completely written by a single author: e.g. the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) state that they were written down by Moses. The book of Isaiah was written by Isaiah; the Book of Daniel by Daniel; the Gospel of Mark by a single author. But analysis of content and style reveals that the Pentateuch was written by several authors from different traditions over many centuries. The books were probably edited later by still other unknown persons. Isaiah also appears to be written by multiple authors. The Book of Daniel appears to have been written over 4 centuries after Daniel's death by an unknown author. The Gospel of Mark originally ended abruptly at Mark 16:8. Some other writer subsequently added verses 9 to 20, to make a "longer ending" to Mark; it was apparently based on Luke, John and some other sources. 5 Another writer created a "shorter ending" consisting of two sentences after verse 8. It was a later addition, probably based on Matthew. Some translations include both endings. Still other Bible versions include additional material after verse 14. All of this multiple authorship raises the question whether the later additions by unknown authors are inerrant, or merely attempts by later believers to augment the text to better match some early Christian group's belief system.
There appears to have been two versions of Mark: "Secret Mark", "for those who had attained a higher degree of initiation in to the church than the common crowd." 6 and the shorter, edited version that has survived to the present time. The latter was the freely available, public version, and was probably a later, smaller version. This raises the question as to which version should be considered inerrant.....
Various passages in the Bible appear to be in conflict with each other. To liberal Christians, these disagreements are inevitable because they believe that the various books of the Bible were written over a period of about 1 millennium, by authors with very different religious views. But to conservative Christians who believe in Biblical inerrancy, conflicts present a problem. If all passages of the Bible are inerrant, then no passage can truly contradict any other passage. Most conflicts can be handled by interpreting one passage in its literal sense, and other, apparently conflicting passages either in some narrow sense or symbolically. Some passages cannot be harmonized in this way. Conservatives usually believe that the latter passages can be resolved, but not with our present knowledge. Books harmonizing hundreds of apparent conflicts have been written. One attempts to solve over 500 such difficulties.
Nature of Truth - Absolute or Relative:
It is sometimes not obvious whether a portion of the Bible refers only to a particular society and era, or whether its teaching is applicable for all locations and all time. ......Conclusions:
The combination of source ambiguity, intentional translation errors, copying errors, symbolic vs. literal interpretation, multiple authorship, multiple versions, interpretation conflicts, internal conflicts, the nature of truth, etc. make it quite impossible to prove that a particular passage in an English translation of the Bible is inerrant. Or if it is regarded as inerrant, it is not necessarily obvious how the passage is to be interpreted.One can hope to minimize the effect of intentional translation errors by accessing many versions of the Bible to compare the full range of translations. One can hope to understand passages better by comparing verses on the same topic in other parts of the Bible in order to get a consensus of what the Biblical authors wrote. But we are largely stuck with the remaining factors.