Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inspiration: Is the Bible inspired?

Questions about the Inspiration of the Scriptures, Inerrancy, troubling texts, contradictions in the Bible, etc., keep cropping up here at OutsideTheBox. Today’s post will be the first in a “sometimes series” on the Bible entitled, “Accurately Handling the Word of Truth.” In this series, I will state my own views on the Bible, and perhaps help some of my readers to sort out their honest and troubling questions about the Scriptures.

Today's post looks at the question of Inspiration. It was written 18 months ago in the aftermath of controversy surrounding my views on the sciences of cosmology and evolution in the local church to which I belong. I wrote it originally to dispel concerns that I no longer "believed the Bible." Not at all certain that I accomplished that purpose, I offer it here anyway in hopes it may, at least, clarify my views for my readers.

As I was preparing this post, I happened upon this excellent
post on “Negotiating Tensions in the Bible” which Chris Tilling posted over at Chrisendom earlier today. Those interested in a deeper, more scholarly approach to these issues may wish to read his essay, which he recently penned for some of his own students grappling with these difficult questions. Happy reading!

As always, I invite your comments.

Inspiration of the Scriptures
By Cliff Martin

What was the process of the inspiration of the Scriptures? How did it happen? To what degree are the Scriptures without error? How dependable are they? Can we safely base our lives on their teachings? These are fair and responsible questions. As I am being asked to clearly state what I believe about these questions, I have chosen to declare in writing my views on the inspiration of the Bible.

Three issues swirl about the larger question of inspiration. Every Bible believer who desires to maintain a reasonable and viable faith is obliged to face three issues honestly and thoughtfully. The three issues are:

1. How does the Bible square up with external evidences? When we place the Bible alongside the findings of history, geology, cosmology, and biology, how much agreement or disagreement do we find? And if we find discrepancies, what do they tell us about Inspiration?

2. How does the Bible square up with internal evidences? Are there contradictions? Do we find teachings in the Old Testament, for example, that do not align well with the nature of God as we understand him from the life of Jesus, and the New Testament? If the Bible disagrees with itself in matters of history and/or theology, what does this tell us about Inspiration?

3. What does that Bible say about itself, both explicitly, and inferentially? Does the Bible declare itself to be without error? What can we glean from the writers themselves? For many Christians, the starting point must be this third set of issues. It is argued that if the Bible makes certain definitive claims about itself, issues one and two must be laid aside. So I will begin this discussion with this question: What does the Bible itself declare about itself?

First, we must recognize that the Bible says nothing about itself. The Bible as we have it had no “self identity” until the process of canonization, hundreds of years after the last words were penned. To construe any claims within the texts about the “Scriptures” as encompassing all of the texts contained in our Bible ignores this fact. Or we must use an unlikely premise that the authors who made the claims were doing so in anticipation of the defining of Scripture which was not to occur for some 300 years or more.

However, New Testament writers did look back upon a defined set of the Hebrew Scriptures. And many of these writers, and Jesus himself in his spoken words, clearly regarded Old Testament texts which they quoted to be the words of God (though we must be careful not to press this point too far—often they quoted the textually corrupt Septuagint). They might, for example, quote an Old Testament Scripture with the words “the Holy Spirit says ....” Neo-orthodox thinkers like Karl Barth [1], and many others who do not believe in plenary verbal inspiration, confess their belief that God’s Holy Spirit does indeed speak to us through the Bible, through the very words. But it requires a deductive leap to conclude that these New Testament authors therefore regarded all of the O.T. as the very words of God, without error. Such a claim is never made anywhere in the Bible. But Paul does declare that the Scriptures (however he might have defined them) were inspired. Let’s examine this clearest of all Biblical claims about its composition, from 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (NASB)
The Greek word translated “inspired” is theopneustos. It occurs only this one time in the New Testament, and it is absent from other Classical Greek literature of the era. So beyond this one verse in the Bible, we are left with no clues as to its usage. But the word itself refers to the breath of God. While some might argue that “God-breathed” can only mean verbal (word for word) inspiration, the term may mean no more than its Latin corresponding word, the root of our English, inspired, which means “breathed in”. An artist or a hymn writer might be moved to paint or compose by some stirring expression of nature, and properly claim that they were inspired of God to produce their work. Of course theopneustos, may mean more than that, but we are not obliged to conclude that it does. Therefore, the Scriptures themselves seem to leave those of us who believe in Inspiration with considerable latitude for our understanding of the meaning of Inspiration. Charles Pinnock, a respected evangelical leader, has concluded,
The Bible does not give us a doctrine of its own inspiration and authority that answers all the various questions we might like to ask.  Its witness on this subject is unsystematic and somewhat fragmentary and enables us to reach important but modest conclusions. [2]
When we turn our attention to the text of the Bible itself (issues one and two, above), we are confronted with many inaccuracies and discrepancies. I will not point them all out in this essay. But no honest Bible scholar denies them. John Piper [3] (a leading Evangelical defender of inerrancy), readily admits that there are “hundreds” of such discrepancies, and that “we dishonour the text not to see them ....” He holds out the hope that all these problems will find solutions, but he suggests we might not get those solutions “in this life” [4]. I do not share his optimism. The list of discrepancies is not getting shorter. Instead, the list keeps growing as our knowledge of the earth and the cosmos expand. It boggles the mind to understand how some of those discrepancies could possibly be solved. And it borders upon intellectual dishonesty to dismiss them in such a cavalier fashion as Piper does.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with the Bible. Perhaps the fault lies in our definitions of Inspiration, and our insistence that the Scriptures are verbally (word for word) inspired in their totality. If the Scriptures do not expressly claim this for themselves, and if the mounting evidence is to the contrary, should we not at least give consideration to other views of Inspiration? The modern day doctrine of inerrancy together with the importance bestowed upon the doctrine, was born in the fundamentalist reaction to modernism at the turn of the 20th Century. Many consider it to be the lynchpin of orthodoxy. But the early leaders of the fundamentalist movement were not unanimous in their acceptance of inerrancy. One of those early leaders, James Orr, warned,
It is urged...that unless we can demonstrate what is called the inerrancy of the biblical record down even to its minutest details, the whole edifice of belief in revealed religion falls to the ground. This, on the face of it, is the most suicidal position for any defender of revelation to take up. [5]
Suicidal, in Orr’s opinion, because he viewed inerrancy as impossible to defend. And thus, the inerrantist inevitably paints himself into a corner.

Rather than spending any more time discussing what the Bible is not, I would like to make clear what I believe the Bible is.

I believe that the Bible is a unique book, inspired from Genesis to Revelation. I believe it is the very book God wanted us to have. I hold to the authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith and practice. I believe the Bible provides a solid and dependable foundation for Christian living. I read it. I study it. I love it. I teach it. I find that it is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB). I believe all the Scriptures are infallible. Infallibility, as I use the term, means that the Bible, in its totality, does not mislead on issues of faith and practice, though it may not be without error in all respects, e.g. in history or science. In my years of reading and studying the Bible, this view of the Scriptures is more consistent with the Scriptures themselves than what I consider a forced claim of inerrancy.

[Though my view of Inspiration has shifted as I have gained a more thorough understanding of the issues, this shift has not affected my core beliefs. I believe in the Incarnation; I believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus; I believe in his Bodily Resurrection; I believe in the reality and power of prayer. I believe in the indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit.]

I believe that in the process of inspiration, God did not override any author’s memory or knowledge base. [Paul, writing the inspired book of 1 Corinthians, included a little misinformation, then corrected himself, then said he was uncertain because he could not remember (1:14-16); the variations in the reporting of events during the life of Jesus which are found in the Gospels are best understood as resulting from inexact recall of events]. It was not God’s intention to produce a supernatural perfect book. Many have wondered why it is that the leader of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ himself, never wrote a book [6]. The answer is quite simple for me. If Jesus had a written a book, the church would have fallen into worship of that book. It would be venerated. It would be legalistically applied. God has chosen not to give us “the perfect book” because our faith is not about words on a page, but about a growing, dynamic relationship with the Lord of the Universe! However, the Bible does give a faithful and accurate account of this growing relationship with God from Abraham through John, the Apostle.

My understanding of the mechanics of inspiration is perhaps best expressed in how I view the early chapters of Genesis, especially chapter one. Here, we see God inspiring Moses to convey remarkable new truths even as he wrote out of his mistaken Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) concept of the universe which included a firmament, with “waters above”. [7] The cosmology of Genesis 1 is quite clearly based in these concepts. We read similar accounts of Creation in Egyptian and Mesopotamian literature that predates Moses. But Moses offered some rather earth-shaking revelations about the one Creator-God, and the nature of God’s relationship to mankind. This is the essence of the revelation of these chapters. [8] It is a message which is today obscured by an insistence that Genesis 1 be understood literally. When the world hears Christians defending literalist interpretations of the Biblical account of Creation, this powerful message of Moses is marginalized, and the voice of the Church is, sadly, muted.

I believe that once Moses had these understandings about Creation, that God “inspired” him to write down his understandings. Moses then supplied the context in terms of ANE cosmogeny [9]; these misunderstandings did not bother God, nor did they detract from the revealed truths being conveyed. God knew that as man’s relationship to Him progressed, further revelation would build upon these writings of Moses. He knew that, in time, man would get the science right. Through this process of progressive revelation, truths about God would come into clearer and clearer focus. I believe this is exactly what we see happening through the whole course of Scripture, culminating in the person of Jesus and the writing of the New Testament.

When I read through the Bible, I am so thankful that God inspired Moses to write down what he was learning about God, even when his understandings were incomplete, or inaccurate. But God, as I have come to know him, is better represented in the writings of David, than Moses. Better still in Isaiah, Jeremiah. Better still in the Gospel records, and finally, in the writings of Paul, and John. Each new layer of inspired writing builds upon the earlier revelation. Like the process of zeroing a telescope in on a distant star, the person and character of God comes into clearer and clearer focus as we move through the Scriptures. In the end, we are equipped with a faithful journal of the history of the one true and living God with a people who sought him, and found him. The net message of the Bible, taken as a whole, comes through loud and clear! It is the revelation of God.

The fact that the Biblical authors did not have their cosmology down pat (no one did until the 15th Century A.D!) does not detract from the power, life-flow, and personal impact the Scriptures convey to me. To push the issue of inerrancy, to insist upon a woodenly literal interpretation of Genesis 1, obscures the real truth of the Word, robs it of its life, and sets up an easy target for the skeptics.

The conflict that has grown up between science and the Bible is an artificial one. It should never have happened. Christian faith was the driving force for science up to and including Darwin. Believers were highly motivated to explore Creation, the handiwork of our Friend! When a strong anti-evolutionary bias linked to Fundamentalism’s defense of the Bible (a linkage which James Orr, and his friend B.B. Warfield both warned was a mistake), an unhealthy distrust of science developed in the Fundamentalist wing of the church. Bible-believing Christianity ceased to be a major player in the advance of science. Lamentably, we deeded that territory largely over to the secularists, who today use science as a club to beat up on Christian beliefs.

There is no conflict between the true scientific exploration of Creation, and the inspired revelation of the Creator. (And contrary to the popular notion among some believers, there is no anti-Christian conspiracy among scientists today, many of whom are Bible believing Christians.) Truth about God and his Creation is truth, whether it is found in the pages of Scripture, or in the lenses of Hubble’s telescope. It is all truth. It is time for this tired, misguided warfare to come to an end.


1 Neo-orthodoxy, a 20th Century movement, is distinct from both Liberal Protestantism and Fundamentalism. This can be seen in Barth's understanding of the Bible. He rejected the Fundamentalist claim that the Scriptures are inerrant. He rejected the modernist Liberal Christian claim of that time, that God could be known primarily through human scholarship (science and reason). He believed that the Bible was the primary place where God is revealed to human beings, but he did not hold the Bible to be without error.

2 The Scripture Principle, Charles Pinnock, page 80

3 These excerpts come from Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, page 77

4 I have never understood how the inerrant Bible Piper holds, reads, and teaches from is any different from Barth’s neo-orthodox Bible. Both scholars hold a book riddled with errors. The known errors admitted by both men number in the hundreds. Piper and Barth have an identical problem: how to read and discern the Bible which has known errors, and may contain other errors we have not yet identified. There is no difference. Those who hold to inerrancy and cast aspersions upon those who do not, claiming that they can “pick and choose” what to believe are not being fair or honest. They have the ability, and the responsibility to do the same! Piper and Barth are both utterly dependent upon Holy Spirit illumination, without which the Bible is nothing more than dead words on a page. (And isn’t this how God intended us to regard the Bible?)

5 Revelation and Inspiration, James Orr, page 197.

6 Christians seldom ask this question, but in my experience, it is among the most common questions raised by nonbelievers.

7 See Gordon Glover’s Beyond the Firmament, chapter 3 and following.

8 Steve Martin has written an excellent post on this subject which can be found

9 a cosmogeny (or cosmogony) is any view of how the universe came into being.


Rich G. said...

That's pretty much where I am, too.

The Bible tells the truth - maybe not technically accurate in the details, but utterly dependable in the themes and ideas illustrated.

Nobody goes to Aesop's Fables, or to Grimms' Tales expecting to learn about talking animals or magical beings. They go to listen to tales about morality and character development, about right and wrong, reward and punishment, about keeping your word and looking out for yourself while respecting those around you. These tales also tell the truth - not about talking harps and glass mountains, but about the human condition. No one that I know tries to either justify an imposed literalism, nor subjects them to mockery for getting the details wrong.

But we see that with God's word.

I see the issue of inspiration as working in the writers the same way as it has in my life - very naturally. Almost indistinguishable from the ebbs and flows of real life. I have spoken the Word of God to people, but have never known it to be that until their jaw drops open in astonishment. I didn't (and still don't) feel a thing, but words have been spoken and things have been done that I was totally unaware were inspired by God - they just seemed to be the simple thing that was the right thing to do at the time.

I expect the Bible's writers were simply writing what came naturally to them at the time - totally ignorant that some of them would be selected (boy, that in itself is a whole 'nuther story) for inclusion as The Holy Scriptures.

N'Guel said...

So then, what do we count as real-history "fact", and what do we count as non-real-history "good idea"? And which scholar should we let decide that? Because it is very relevant to my beliefs whether these things really happened or really did not.

Cliff Martin said...

Hi N'Guel,

So then, what do we count as real-history "fact", and what do we count as non-real-history "good idea"?

The Bible is not just a collection of facts, it is (as I believe) a living book, a book which is made alive in deeply personal ways by the Spirit of God.

And which scholar should we let decide that?

The Spirit! If he does not speak to me through the Word, then the Bible is little more than so much ink on paper.

Because it is very relevant to my beliefs whether these things really happened or really did not.

Which things?

Isaac Gouy said...

And which scholar should we let decide that?

Cliff > The Spirit! If he does not speak to me through the Word, then the Bible is little more than so much ink on paper.

I imagine that same answer could be given truthfully by many people who read their Bibles in a very different way than you read your Bible.

'Orthodoxist theologians now often claimed to derive "pure doctrine" from an inerrant Bible directly inspired word-for-word by the Holy Spirit. The results were predictable: each Protestant tradition or "confession" published theological systems that were at odds with those of other groups. The orthodoxist approach is therefore anti-ecumenical by nature.

The orthodoxist period is one of partisanship, religious war, and economic stagnation. During the years 1580 to 1700 the population of Germany was reduced from eighteen million to ten million.'

p142 The Evolution of Christianity: Twelve Crises that shaped the Church

Cliff Martin said...


The quote from the book is spot on! I could not agree with the author more. The teaching of Inerrancy and Verbal Inspiration leads to such lamentable and tragic results as those seen in post-reformation Germany. It is just another reason for rejecting the fundamentalist understanding of the Bible. It is why I do not read the Bible in search of a systematic theology, or a codified set of doctrines. I read with an intent to hear what God might be saying to me. Often I receive little along that line. At other times, spiritual insight for my life, or for my friends, comes through loud and clear!

Did you derive your stated conclusion ("I imagine ...") from that quote? Because I fail to see the connection.

N'Guel said...

Because it is very relevant to my beliefs whether these things really happened or really did not.

Which things?
Well, I suppose it is important to me that the Bible hold some sort of tie to objective reality. For example, it is highly significant to me that those events are accurate surrounding the incarnation and resurrection of our Lord, and the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. So much of my belief is banked on the fact that Christ was here on Earth in actual history, and did perform miracles in space/time, and was resurrected in the flesh as a serious event on serious earth.
I as well believe in the Bible as not a mere collection of "facts" compiled into a sort of history book, and I also believe in the Bible as a book made alive in a personal way by the Holy Spirit. But there are many books that are full of "wisdom" and "truth", however, those books are merely pointing to a more basic level of the Real. A level that I believe to be the Kingdom of Heaven. That level is where we should be headed, and do not have time to doddle with Christianity if it is not the "correctest" metanarrative. If there is any reason for us to believe that it is not, then we should be pushing off, in search for what lies behind this additional layer of abstraction. If Adam and Eve never existed, then who did? And if No-one did, then why do we hang onto this symbolic story? Why do we consider it valuable if it is not true? And how can it be true if it is simply a ghostly simulacrum? And what of the event of the fall of man? If we can call it an event. The Bible appears to. But that is my point: Symbolism is there, and it wants to point to a reality of some sort, on some level, whether that level is a purely spiritual level (such as there was a "spiritual Adam" on a "Spiritual Plane", or a mental level ("Adam" represents all of us in a journey of the mind) or a physical level (a real person, or people). Therefore, at some point along the line, all of that Symbolism and Metaphor must be tied to some sort of non-abstract External Reality. In other terms, if Adam and Eve do not represent Reality, then that symbol is either a complete fabrication or a mistake. And if either are the case, then we would do best to find a metaphor that more accurately describes the activities of God and how He relates with His creation. Otherwise the symbolism is a Mad Tea Party, teaching us nothing and is not even good for bed time stories since "Truth" is well defined as That which corresponds to Reality. The other side of that coin is, however, that if Adam and Eve do in fact represent real people, or groups of people or events or whatever, than we need, instead of calling the Bible errant, to find a good interpretation of "Adam" and "Eve", not to mention the serpent, the Fall, the two Trees, and the Garden. I am picking on Adam and Eve in this particular post, but could adapt this conversation to many figures or events presented in the Old and New Covenants. The problem is not, as I see it, that the Bible may be Errant, the problem as I see it is that it must be interpreted and people (myself most of all) need a lot of help in interpretation, and since I have been wrong in the past in hearing what the Holy Spirit has been saying to me, I have a real need of something of a reference against which I can check all new information. If the Bible goes all shaky, then everything I hear is wobbly.
I hope this makes sense, I am not trying to be contentious, but this is a subject of many an evening with friends around a pint and a fire. We really need outside input.

Rich G. said...


Well, I suppose it is important to me that the Bible hold some sort of tie to objective reality....I would recommend you get your hands on a couple of G.K.Chesterton's books:

Orthodoxy and
Everlasting Man
You should be able to find these books online through CCEL.ORG, Gutenberg.ORG or

I think he explains the fundamental truths you seem to be struggling with, albeit from a Catholic viewpoint. I wouldn't worry too much about this last part - C.S.Lewis cites "Everlasting Man" as #2 in his list:

> When asked by The Christian Century magazine in 1962
> "What books did most to shape your vocational attitude
> and your philosphy of life?" C. S. Lewis responded
> with this list:
>1. Phantastes, by George MacDonald.
>2. The Everlasting Man, by G. K. Chesterton.
>3. The Aenied, by Virgil.
>4. The Temple, by George Herbert.
>5. The Prelude, by William Wordsworth.
>6. The Idea of the Holy, by Rudolph Otto.
>7. The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius.
>8. The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell.
>9. Descent into Hell, by Charles Williams.
>10. Theism and Humanism, by Arthur James Balfour.

C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Sheldon Vanauken (23 Dec. 1950) wrote:

"I do not think there is a *demonstrative* proof (like Euclid) of Christianity, nor of the existence of matter, nor of the good will & honesty of my best & oldest friends. I think all three are (except the second) far more probable than the alternatives. The case for Christianity is well given by Chesterton [in *The Everlasting Man*]; and I tried to do something in my *Broadcast Talks*. As to *why* God doesn't make it demonstratively clear:
are we sure that He is even interested in the kind of Theism which would be a compelled logical assent to a conclusive argument? Are *we* interested in it in personal matters? I demand from my friend a trust in my good faith which is *certain* without demonstrative proof. It wouldn't be confidence at all if he waited for rigorous proof. Hang it all, the very fairy-tales embody the truth. Othello believed in Desdemona's innocence when it was proved: but that was too late. Lear believed in Cordelia's love when it was proved: but that was too late. 'His praise is lost who stays till all commend.' The magnanimity, the generosity which will trust on a reasonable probability, is required of us. But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why, then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn't deserve. Your error would even be so more interesting & important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?"

Cliff Martin said...


For me, there is no compelling reason to deny the New Testament accounts of Jesus, and there are some strong reasons to accept them as historical. If someone chooses to deny anything supernatural, then of course he will question the stories of Jesus birth, resurrection, ascension, etc. But there is nothing in other historical accounts, or in our scientific investigation of the past which would cast doubt upon these events as recorded in the Gospels.

The same cannot be said for many Old Testament stories. A literal reading of Genesis 1 through 11, for example, flies in the face of our growing understandings about the history of our planet and of our race. We are compelled to either deny science and reason, or to read them through a lens other than an account of literal events.

I have suggested some alternative ways to understand Adam and Eve and the Fall in this earlier post on Adam.

I heartily endorse Rich's comments above! Next time I see you, N'Guel, I'd be happy to loan you either or both of the Chesterton books Rich recommends. If you've never read Chesterton, you have a real treat in store!

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > Did you derive your stated conclusion ("I imagine ...") from that quote?No. Writing that supposition reminded me of the quote.

Let's make it a question - Don't those who read their Bibles in a very different way, than you read your Bible, believe that their very different reading is the Spirit of God speaking to them?

Cliff Martin said...


Let's make it a question - Don't those who read their Bibles in a very different way, than you read your Bible, believe that their very different reading is the Spirit of God speaking to them?Yes.

Isaac Gouy said...

If all those different readings of the Bible are believed by those different individuals to be the Spirit of God speaking to them, then on what basis do you privilege your own reading over those other readings?

Do you have anything more substantial than our childhood shouts of "I'm right, you're wrong!" ?

Cliff Martin said...


Of course not. To me, this is no different than disagreements between scientists who read the same data and draw different conclusions. Is there a single discipline in the world in which all practitioners agree?

All of us, theists, scientists, atheists, historians, geologists, Christians, etc. would do well to exercise humility toward others. That was the message of the Tennyson Poem which I posted in March.

The science of hermeneutics involves logic, other historical sources, background information, comparison of scriptures, studies in the original language, etc. and these are combined with a prayerful waiting upon God's spirit.

There are many interpretations which can be immediately discounted because the false, or skewed motivations of the interpreter is obvious, or their underlying assumptions are dubious. On the other hand there are many interpretations which I respect, even though my conclusions may be different.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > ... no different than disagreements between scientists who read the same data and draw different conclusions.

Are you talking about a situation where the data supports a number of different hypotheses equally, or are you talking about a situation where the data clearly supports one hypothesis but scientists who prefer some other hypothesis have yet to give up?

In the first case, as part of the scientists ordinary work, they will search for a way to disprove their hypotheses and then do those experiments.

In the second case the scientists who won't give up unsupported hypotheses will eventually be left behind.

Thinking of ways to disprove your own hypotheses is very different from "I'm right, you're wrong!"

Cliff > The science of hermeneutics...

Is that just a typo or did you really mean to say that interpreting texts is a science ?

Cliff > There are many interpretations which can be immediately discounted because the false, or skewed motivations of the interpreter is obvious, or their underlying assumptions are dubious.

What would count as a false motivation? What would count as a dubious assumption?

Cliff Martin said...

Oh, Isaac. I'm sure you would not need to look long to find scientists who defend their hypotheses in very immature fasion i.e."I'm right, your wrong." Likewise, you will find responsible scientists, more interested in truth than being right. The same two kinds of people can also be found among Bible interpreters.

Hermeneutics is a science.

I do not have the time or energy to describe for you various suspect motives and faulty assumptions that drive some people's study of the Bible. I'm sure if you think about it, you could write you own list.

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > would not need to look long...

It's disappointing to see an unsubstantiated slur which does nothing to answer the point - Thinking of ways to disprove your own hypotheses is very different from "I'm right, you're wrong!"

Cliff > Hermeneutics is a science.

Michael Behe defined scientific theory so broadly that it would include astrology - perhaps you are defining science just as broadly.

Cliff > I do not have the time or energy...

That's fine - I just wondered how well your own study of the Bible would survive the criteria you apply to others.

Cliff Martin said...


Did you miss my point entirely? I did not think that my contention about scientists needed "substantition". Do you doubt that some scientists selfishly guard their theories and ideas? Whether you doubt it or not, I’ll stand by my statements. And I do not feel the need in a comment to offer substantiation for every point I make.

Thinking of ways to disprove your own hypotheses is very different from "I'm right, you're wrong!"
Of course! What did I say that suggested otherwise? My point (did you get it?) was that you can find both kinds of individuals in ever discipline. I offer no proof. It is my opinion. But I hardly think it should be controversial at all. Seems quite obvious to me.

Yes, Isaac. Hermeneutics is a science. I never thought I would have to offer substantiation for that. One of my dictionary’s definition for science is “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.” Hermeneutics, which is “the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, esp. of the Bible or literary texts”, clearly rises to that definition. Wikepedia agrees:

“Biblical hermeneutics is often defined as both a science and an art. It is considered a science with regard to its prescribed set of rules, and an art because meaning is not found in a mechanical and rigid application of rules” (Wikipedia article on Hermaneutics)

My google search for <“science of hermenuetics”> (something you really ought to do) yielded hundreds of results, mostly academic and scholarly works.

The Encylopedia Britannica defines hermeneutics as “science of interpretive principles.”

I’m trying to understand what you are driving at here. If you point is that interpreting the Bible is, ultimately, subjective, then of course you are correct. Is that your point?

Isaac Gouy said...

Cliff > I did not think that my contention about scientists needed "substantition".

Do you think your comment was a slur?

Do you think your comment was relevant to the difference between science and other studies?

You could as easily say - you would not need to look long to find scientists who are christian and criminal - and that would likewise say nothing about what makes them as scientists different from other christian criminals.

Cliff > My google search for “science of hermenuetics” (something you really ought to do)...

Is it "quite obvious" to you that I didn't?

Cliff > One of my dictionary’s definition for science is “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.”

Do you think that includes history?

Do you think that includes theology?

Do you think that includes astrology?

Cliff > If you point is that interpreting the Bible is, ultimately, subjective, then of course you are correct.

I am well aware of how much easier it is to criticize others than it is to set out ideas in a way that will withstand similar criticisms.

I wondered how well your own interpretation of the Bible would survive the criticism you make of other people's interpretations.