Did Jesus Confirm the Inerrancy and Historicity of the Old Testament?

While 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the queen of all ‘proofs’ of biblical inerrancy, I would say that certain words of Jesus come in second. And, since Jesus is central to all believers, how can we ignore his words if they confirm biblical inerrancy?

Scripture Cannot be Broken

Many inerrantists point out that Jesus said that ‘Scripture cannot be broken.’ Wow! That sounds pretty conclusive—until you look at the statement more closely. It occurs in John 10:

the scripture cannot be broken (KJV)

But I wonder how many people using this ‘proof’ actually read the context. A group of Jewish religious leaders are preparing to stone Jesus, and Jesus asks why.

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’ If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?

The reference is to Psalm 82:

God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?…“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Jesus was messing with his accusers! I am sure they did not believe there was an ‘assembly of gods’ just as I suspect inerrantists do not believe there is an assembly of gods. Jesus’ statement that ‘scripture cannot be broken’ reflects the view of his accusers—not his own view. I think the context rules out this passage as a ‘proof’ of inerrancy.

Not a Jot or Tittle Will Pass Away

Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch 1876

One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is all about true ethics and Old Testament Law. Early in the sermon Jesus says in Matthew 5:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV)

But then he goes on to make a number of ‘you have heard, but I say’ statements. I think Jesus is saying that the deeper intent of the Law will not pass away but the bondage of legalism will be replaced and fulfilled by the ethic of loving God and of loving others as one’s self. In reading the sermon I don’t see any alternative to this. Jesus does not destroy the intent of the Law but completes it. So I don’t think Jesus validates an inerrant Old Testament legal system.

Reference to Old Testament Passages do not Imply Historical Inerrancy

A good example of this is in the Jonah story. Many people think the Jonah story is fiction with a point—and I agree. Yet when the Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus replied in Matthew 12:

A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus refers to a well-known story; but this does not mean he thought it really happened. I could say that a child is like Tom Sawyer in tricking other kids into doing his work—like painting a fence. Most people would understand the reference, but I don’t think anyone would think I understood Tom Sawyer to be an historical person.

No proof of inerrancy here.

Jesus’ Treatment of the Old Testament

Another thing that interests me is Jesus’ use of the Old Testament for his own purposes. For example, Jesus declared his mission in Nazareth by reading from the Isaiah scroll in Luke 4:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Then he said:

Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

However, it seems that Jesus purposefully ignored the very next section of Isaiah 61 regarding judgment:

and the day of vengeance of our God

Jesus chose what he wanted. Does this make him a scriptural cherry-picker?

The Problem of Inerrancy in the Book of Jude

While Jesus does not confirm inerrancy of the Old Testament, another New Testament personality has a bearing on the topic. The short book of Jude says:

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them…

The problem is that the Book of Enoch was NOT written by Enoch, the seventh from Adam in Genesis. Enoch was not written until about 200 years before the time of Jesus. So Jude was absolutely wrong. His statement about Enoch is NOT inerrant and calls into question the supposed inerrancy of the entire Bible.

There is One More ‘Proof’ Offered that God Speaks in the Bible

‘The Lord says (said)’ and ‘God says (said)’ are found in the NIV 2000+ times including prophets and narrators. But how did they know? Did they hear an audible voice? Did they feel a strong impression? Was it simply a prophetic literary device or part of a story? We will talk about that next time—along with truth claims of the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

Articles in this series:
Belief in Biblical Inerrancy Must be the Second Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All
Why Do Inerrantists Think the Bible is Inerrant Anyway?
How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns: a Book Review
Did Jesus Confirm the Inerrancy and Historicity of the Old Testament?
5 Common False Assumptions Inerrantists Make about Me as a Progressive Believer
Inerrantists are My Brothers and Sisters in Jesus—Not My Enemies

See also:
Books and Resources on Inerrancy

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33 Responses to Did Jesus Confirm the Inerrancy and Historicity of the Old Testament?

  1. Prooftexting in general is a problem in evangelical/fundamentalist circles. So many of their beliefs are taken from single verses out of context. Many of them seem to think that if they can provide even just one verse that supports their beliefs, that somehow all the other verses and philosophies and hermeneutics are magically negated. It makes them feel warm and toasty, and they just ignore all the verses that disagree with their stance. One of my favorites is when people mention the statement in Revelation about not adding anything to this book, forgetting that this statement is only about Revelation itself. They use it for all kinds of theological judgments, though, across the board.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Prog, as sad as this is, it is very true: “Prooftexting in general is a problem in evangelical/fundamentalist circles. So many of their beliefs are taken from single verses out of context. Many of them seem to think that if they can provide even just one verse that supports their beliefs, that somehow all the other verses and philosophies and hermeneutics are magically negated.”

      In addition, they will take two or more verses out of context that are not at all related to each other. I guess that makes them even more certain. But you are right–only one proof-text is needed.

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  2. Cheryel Lemley-McRoy says:

    “A good example of this is in the Jonah story. Many people think the Jonah story is fiction with a point—and I agree. Yet when the Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus replied in Matthew 12:”
    In studying Biblical Hebrew, I have learned that Jesus didn’t invent parables. Parable is an ancient teaching tool. Hebrew scholars believe that Jonah and Job are parables. I think it might be better to refer to them as parables rather than fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Cheryel, you are correct that Jesus did not invent parables. And it does not bother me in the least to for Jonah or Job to be called parables. In my thinking, though, parables tend to be shorter and to the point while fictional stories are longer–also with a point. I think this would also include Esther and the story of Joseph in Egypt.

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  3. Chas says:

    Tim, I am aware that you wrote this post to attack the idea of inerrancy, but you are quoting words attributed to Jesus as if he really said them. All of the cases you have quoted are contained in only one of the gospels, and so are most likely the invention of the author of that particular gospel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, yes. It is possible that Jesus did not say these things at all. But even if he did I don’t think they support the inerrancy or historicity of the OT.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. necron48 says:

    Tim I honestly didn’t know that you attack the idea of the inspiration and inerrancy of the scriptures (my bad)
    For that reason I can no longer in good conscience support your blog so I will be unsubscribing.
    I do believe there is a big need in the body of Christ to heal those who have been abused by extreme fundamentalist and legalistic views, so I heartily support you in that…..I just feel it is wrong to teach that somehow the bible is in error because of that, we should be affirming that God’s word contains no errors, and that it is a person’s theology that is in error if it leads to abusing someone.

    For e.g, those who advocate Lordship salvation, they are not wrong because parts of the bible might not accurately reflect what God may or may not have said. Lordship proponents are wrong because their theology is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Necron, I am sorry to see you leave but I understand. To those who believe in inerrancy, as I did for many years, it is a really important belief–I would even say a foundational one. Have a good journey brother!

      Like

      • necron48 says:

        I honestly hold no ill will my brother ☺
        And I appreciate you allowing me on your blog to post stuff
        I haven’t unsubscribe yet!, I will.pray some more

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Necron, I hold no ill will either. I welcome those who disagree with me as long as they are civil; I had an atheist who commented regularly for quite a while. I hope you continue with us.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Cheryel Lemley-McRoy says:

      Necron48, perhaps if you could take a class in Biblical Hebrew or Greek, you would find that our English translations are not inerrant. Or read “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman. But be prepared to have your faith in the Bible challenged. Some people don’t survive that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • necron48 says:

        @Cheryl

        Hi Cheryl, I will do my best to answer your concerns. I believe there is only 2 possible systems of thought on the inerrancy of the bible:
        1: The bible is the word of God and as such is reliable and does NOT contain any errors.
        2: The bible is the words of men and as such has errors and mistakes in it, but God’s “message” to mankind remains intact throughout it’s pages.

        I don’t believe there is any third position to hold, you will either fall into the first position or the second, and I am not trying to change anyone’s mind here.

        I fall into the first position, so no matter what seemingly contradictory evidence that Bart Ehrman and others may present, it is my faith that the bible is what it claims to be, the inspired word of God, and that God has promised us humans a faithful copy of what HE said would prevail down the centuries without error Mat 5:18  “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled”

        I am no stranger to textual criticism, I am aware of it’s arguments and I have extensively studied what’s called the transmission of the text. In the end it is about faith and believing what He said about his words…..we either choose to believe Him, or trust the words of men (scholars)

        So in a sense, my faith cannot be shaken in the bible by reading material by Bart Ehrman, because my faith is not in MAN, but in God, and I’m trusting HIM, that HE has preserved a copy of His words intact for us humans to read.

        Now, is there errors and mistakes in the various translations of the bible?
        You might be surprised at my answer!! It is YES and NO

        Every single translation of the bible has manifold errors, textual variants, contradictory texts, and mistakes in them EXCEPT ONE…….I believe only the King James Bible contains God’s words intact without error…..I know this is not a popular belief, and I understand and accept that not everyone is going to see it my way. I have also extensively studied books from James White and others who try to prove that the KJV has errors in it, so my faith in the KJV is not blind, I have been exposed to both sides of this argument.

        Please, please don’t let this thread degenerate into all the mistakes and errors in the KJV, and highlighting how wrong I am, I am just affirming this is my belief and I respect those that don’t share it, but since this is such a contentious issue, my fear is that this thread will devolve into proving how wrong I am, and listing all the errors in the bible, or listing all the scholarly works I need to read to shake my “faith”

        Tim has graciously allowed me to comment in his blog, and the last thing I want to see is this thread turn into a pro/anti KJV rant lol

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Necron, I was raised in KJV only circles. Are you familiar with Peter Ruckman?

          Like

          • necron48 says:

            @jesuswithoutbaggage

            Peter who?

            I am almost hesitant to answer as your ministry here is reaching out to those Christian souls who have been damaged and wounded by extremist fundamentalism, and we shouldn’t let this blog be cluttered up with KJV onlyism or the merits of 1 bible translation over another:

            But Yeah, Peter Ruckman was and forever will be my most favorite bible teacher/scholar/defender of the KJV….Read most of his books, seen most of his chalk talk sermons. I love the guy. He wasn’t perfect and there was a few doctrines I disagreed with him on, but as to his knowledge of textual criticism, and the Greek he was awesome, one of his fav comments I like was when he said “the reason why seminary Greek professors are so afraid of him is because he knows EVERYTHING they know, EVERYTHING they teach, and he doesn’t believe it” LOL
            Lot of truth in that!.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Necron, I was just curious about whether you were aware of Ruckman; I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable in any way. When I was King James Only in the 1950s and 60s, it was before Ruckman really did his work, so I did not know of him until years later.

            Liked by 1 person

          • necron48 says:

            Oh my gosh!
            You didn’t make me uncomfortable at all, I was more concerned that your thread here would be derailed from going off on a tangent and talking about my fav topic, the KJV.
            Was there even a KJV movement before Peter Ruckman, LMAO

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Necron, there certainly WAS a KJV only movement before Peter Ruckman. We didn’t go looking for other translations, but if one happened to come into our hands we would burn it on the trash heap. I think much of the fundamentalist movement was KJV only; we were Free Will Baptist, but I knew a lot about the Independent Fundamental Baptists who were also very KJV only. To my knowledge, Ruckman’s primary contribution was teaching that the KJV was so inerrant that it could be used to correct Greek manuscripts and editions.

            We can talk about the KJV if you wish, but I am not an advocate of that translation.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          necron, There is a third position, which is that God can gives a message to someone from the bible, even though it was written by men, by giving them inspiration when they read it. That is what I believe He/She does.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Evangelicals have made so many requirements on the Biblical text that the text itself didn’t warrant! Thanks for your post 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The neat thing about the Matthew 5 reference is that Jesus is referring to a specific Hebrew letter – the smallest letter – Yod. He is saying that even the smallest letter is important. But I don’t see this as a reference to inerrancy though. I agree that every last bit is important, but that doesn’t equate to it being inerrant. The other thing to note about this is the importance of the written word in Jewish faith. The Hebrew alphabet didn’t have vowels – they were added later. The vowel marks for words are the dots and marks around the main letters. The idea being that the words of Scripture are holy and should not be changed to include vowels. So the way around it was to come up with a system of vowel markings that do not change the main letters. Of course, even this isn’t a perfect solution – sometimes the vowel marks are best guesses as to what the sound of the word would be. Jews also see the Hebrew Bible as something that should not be corrected – even when there are obvious mistakes due to copying errors. So what the Masoretes (Who copied the Hebrew bible over to preserve it as best they could, even while acknowledging errors in it) did was write in the margins what they thought the text actually was supposed to say, thus leaving the original (erroneous) version alone, but offering a corrected version.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. tom minkler says:

    Excellent as usual! Thank you for writing and posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I don’r see how Jesus could be an inerrantist mainly because of his spiritual understanding of the Old Testament – the Greatest Commandment etc.. But especially his “You have heard it said…. But I say…” teachings directly contradict Old Testament Laws. And his criticism of Legalism and Tradition. There is too much evidence to the contrary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I agree. Many people quote the ‘not one jot or tittle’ from the sermon on the mount and completely ignore the ‘you have heard; but I say’ statements which were much stronger. I think you are right that the evidence is contrary to Jesus being an inerrantist.

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