18 replies on “G. K. Beale on Biblical Inerrancy: The Crossway Lecture and an Important New Book”

  1. Jim,
    Do you know if JETS will publish the lecture in the Spring? I wasn’t able to attend, but would love to read his presentation, and hopefully read Dan Wallace’s paper in the Spring JETS.

  2. I heard that he plans to submit it for publication, but I don’t know where he’ll send it.

    If I see it appear I’ll link to it, but it might be a while . . . meanwhile you can read the book!


  3. I appreciate that whether or not the Bible teaches its own inerrancy is significant. How significant, though, depends on whether you already accept the Bible as inerrant. Even if the exegesis of Revelation is correct, an errantist can just chalk this up as one more biblical error.

  4. Dear Professor Hamilton,

    I just read Professor James McGrath’s review of Professor Beale’s book. His review is at distinct odds with yours. Would you care to share brief thoughts on McGrath’s critique?

  5. Thanks for your note. I think that Professor McGrath makes a number of assertions, but he doesn’t enter into actual discussion of the evidence. He simply assumes his own perspective then speaks triumphantly about how the perspective with which he disagrees is about to crumble.

    I disagree with McGrath, and I agree with those who hold that inerrancy is basically the position that all believing Christians have held across the ages.

    Watch for the Robert Yarbrough essay in the next issue of Themelios. I’ll link to it when it appears.



  6. Dear Professor Hamilton,

    I look forward to reading Yarbrough’s essay in Themelios!

    Also, here’s a more substantive critique of McGrath’s review that I may have engendered. It’s by Steve Hays and you can read it by clicking here.

  7. Professor Hamilton, I could easily say that you make assertions about my post but don’t deal with the evidence! 🙂 I don’t think, for instance, that pointing out a widespread ancient cosmology that provides precisely what Beale assumes did not and could not have existed (it presumably being far too unwieldy to have multiple domes/spheres moving around) constitutes mere triumphalistic assertion without evidence or argument.

    Many of the points I mention in the post about Beale’s book are ones that I’ve addressed on the blog before, sometimes in detail, and so it may be that I did not elaborate as fully in my post as some readers might have desired. I’d welcome critical interaction about the actual details, and arguments I’ve made, if you have any to offer.

    One that came up recently, for instance, has to do with the tensions between the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, which I’ve discussed (albeit more briefly than I tend to in class) on both my blog and my web page.

  8. Prof McGrath,

    Thanks for your note. I don’t know if you’ve seen John Collins’s work on Genesis 1-4 where he differentiates between a world-picture, which might include a flat earth, and a world view, which would affirm that whatever it looks like God made it all. I’m comfortable with that kind of differentiation, following Warfield’s view that when God gave the biblical authors true theology he didn’t necessarily give them modern cosmology. I’m inclined to think that Beale is right about the creation narratives depicting creation as a cosmic temple because the universe is built for the worship of God and communion between God and his people. These are things that happen in temples, and God’s temple is the cosmos.

    I’m also happy to say that where I can’t find a convincing reconciliation of pieces of evidence that seem to be in conflict, I recognize that I don’t know everything there is to know. There may very well be information out there that would reconcile these pieces of evidence, and/or I may not be correctly understanding these pieces of evidence. So I am content to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt.

    In addition to these considerations, it seems to me that a real contradiction would go like this: Gospel writer A claims that Jesus descends from David, while gospel writer B asserts that Jesus most certainly did not descend from David. This, of course, is not the kind of “contradiction” that we find in the gospels. We find places where the accounts give different pieces of information. There are all kinds of good explanations for those different pieces of information. The possibilities are limited only by our willingness to approach the sources sympathetically as opposed to coming at them employing the hermeneutic of suspicion. At the end of the day, it takes as much faith to assert on the basis of what we actually know (and this is not everything) that an error has been made as it does to imagine that there are probably ways that these things can be reconciled, even if I’m not aware of how to reconcile them at the present.

    The fact that some excavating Louisville in 3145 will have a difficult time explaining why one document he finds in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southwestern Seminary, while another document in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southern Seminary won’t mean that the documents are erroneous. If that scholar in the future asserts that the documents are contradictory and therefore erroneous, it will only show that he does not understand that there were spring and fall semesters in 2008 with a summer in between. In the spring I taught at Southwestern, moved from Texas to Kentucky in the summer, and taught at Southern in the fall. I can imagine that some other scholar might propose such a reconstruction out there in 3145, and I can imagine the one who thinks the documents are erroneous rejecting the harmonization because the reconstruction was rather complicated. But it would be a true reconciliation of the evidence.

    All this to say, I am convinced that the Bible is totally true and trustworthy. I believe that when God stooped down low to enter into our little world and reveal himself, he did not allow error into his communication.

    I wish you every blessing in Christ Jesus, whose death has paid the penalty for sin, so that all who trust in him can be reconciled to God.

    He is risen!


  9. Thank you for your detailed reply! I particularly liked that you mentioned excavating Louisville – I regularly have asked my students to imagine themselves in the distant future undertaking an excavation in Indianapolis. It can be a helpful thought experiment and is useful for illustrating points about archaeology and the piecemeal nature of historical evidence.

    I don’t particularly disagree with anything you wrote, apart from my being convinced that there are some genuine disagreements in the Bible. To take the example you mentioned, it does seem to me that Paul’s statement that Jesus was “descended from David according to the flesh” means something different than Matthew and Luke’s depiction of Jesus as essentially “adopted” into David’s family via Joseph.

    But I liked your distinction (or Collins’) between “world picture” and “world view”. And I think that there is a real sense in which, if Genesis and Paul’s letters may have been written in the context of different world pictures (Paul’s reference to multiple heavens suggests he assumes something like the Ptolemaic cosmology), they share a common worldview, a common conviction that God is the creator of all. I suspect that in many instances the same principle could provide a helpful perspective and help us see where there is an underlying unity even between authors that express themselves in different ways and in different contexts.

    One thing I would like to add is how much I value your gracious tone in replying to me. Not all bloggers manage it, and I’ve certainly fallen short on occasion. You are to be commended for it – Thank you!

  10. Jim Hamilton: “All this to say, I am convinced that the Bible is totally true and trustworthy. I believe that when God stooped down low to enter into our little world and reveal himself, he did not allow error into his communication.

    James McGrath: “Christian Fundamentalists tell everyone that they ought to accept the truthfulness of the Bible. It is painfully ironic, therefore, that the character of fundamentalism has the effect of powerfully undermining the confidence of those who investigate or think seriously about its historicity.”

    Quoted from Why Modern Fundamentalism Shakes Confidence in the Bible.

  11. Hi, All-

    If the Koran says it is inerrant (and it does) does that mean that it is inerrant? And if its historical setting is far better attested than that of the Bible (and it is), does that make it more inerrant than the new testament?

  12. If you look into the text history of the Quran you’ll see that its “historical setting” is not “better attested” than the Bible’s. In fact, the various recensions of the Quran undermine all attempts to get to its original text. The case of the manuscript witnesses to the NT is quite different, as has been recently demonstrated by Eldon Jay Epp’s essay on the abundance of early NT manuscripts in a festschrift entitled Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children.

    Such claims can be tested against manuscript evidence and against the history of ideas. The Quran is demonstrably dependent upon the Bible, while the Bible’s ideas are demonstrably independent of any other religious literature in the world. Not to say that the Bible does not engage the world’s religious ideas, but that its ideas are so unique that they can only be attributed to divine inspiration.



  13. Hi, JMH-

    Your use of the term “witnesses” is highly misleading. The number of copies of a manuscript says nothing about its original veracity or quality. It is like saying that the large number of Harry Potter books in existence support its truthfulness. Does the fact that the early church burned a wide variety of conflicting books make them untrue? Hardly, and some would say precisely the opposite is more likely to be the case.

    As for the supposed independence of Biblical ideas, nothing could be more contrary to the truth. Influences from Zoroastrianism, rampant messianism, Greek Platonism, not to mention Judaism permeate the text. There is even a persuasive argument that Mark was partially modeled on Homer’s epics of Odysseus.

    Obviously, you would never let such thoughts cross your mind, or engage in serious historiography on the topic (see the work of Bart Ehrman). I just though it might be helpful to leaven your blog a bit.

    Best wishes!

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