Biblical Inerrancy, the Book of Mormon, and The Qur’an

I graduated high school in 1969. It was the summer of Woodstock, but I knew nothing about it at the time. I spent my summer working for a burger chain, preparing for college in the fall, and having a series of meetings with two Mormon missionaries (Elders). The main point of Mormon missionaries is to encourage a person to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God for a testimony as to whether it is true.

I gather that today a person is expected to read some passages from the Book of Mormon, but I read the entire book—which I think was standard at the time. Reading it was quite a rush, and when I finished I prayed to God to let me know whether it was true. I really, desperately, wanted it to be true, but I did not receive an answer at the end of my prayer.

A Big Problem for the Book of Mormon


However, I did get something else. I happened to see a book on Mormonism by Gordon Fraser at a convenience store. I wasn’t looking for it; but I bought it. Among other things, Fraser pointed out the serious problems of archaeology regarding the supposed Hebrew population of early America claimed to be the ancestors of the native Americans, and also problems of ethnicity.

Similar challenges are found in these Wikipedia articles: Historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Criticism of the Book of Mormon, Archaeology and the Book of Mormon, Genetics and the Book of Mormon, and Linguistics and the Book of Mormon.

I had my answer to prayer—the Book of Mormon was not true no matter how much I wished for it to be. Interestingly, archaeology also challenges significant Old Testament claims—especially the massive number of Hebrews who are reported to have left Egypt and spent 40 years in the Sinai. There is no archaeological support for that large number. There are also serious problems with the stories of Joshua’s rapid conquest of Canaan; archaeology shows that it did not occur as written by the later Israelites about themselves.

I am not saying the Old Testament is not true at all, but we must accept that it is not completely factual and therefore certainly not inerrant.

The Qur’an

The story goes that in 610 AD Muhammad was in the Cave of Hira when a dazzling vision of beauty and light overpowered him. He heard the word, ‘Iqra’, which means ‘read’, ‘proclaim’, or ‘recite’. But the illiterate Muhammad protested that he could not read. The angel Jibril (Gabriel) squeezed him in a tight embrace until he complied. After that, for 23 years Muhammad received and recited Allah’s messages. They came by inspiration as the need arose; he recited them, and they were recorded and became the Qur’an.

A lot of things, both good and bad, have been said about Muhammad. Several schools of Islam developed including one that is radical and violent and whose followers are often in the news. I don’t know what to think about Muhammad, but I don’t think he was an evil man or a deceiver—and he did a great deal of good. But I also think he was mistaken on many issues.

Did an angel reveal the passages of the Qur’an to him? I doubt it. But I would say that his claim of some sort of inspiration is stronger than that of biblical inerrantists. On what basis do we reject his claim and accept the much flimsier claims of inerrancy?

This is What the Lord Says

We already discussed a number of inadequate appeals to support biblical inerrancy, but there is another point to consider. The words ‘The Lord said (says)’ and ‘God said (says)’ are found more than 2000 times in the NIV text. How do we account for this? The biblical authors say so, 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? Let’s look at two examples.

You remember the story of King David and Bathsheba. David was fascinated with her and had her husband killed in battle so he could have her as his own wife. The prophet Nathan spoke to King David in the name of God about his deed in 2 Samuel 12:

This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’

Zechariah, a later prophet in Jewish history, states in Zechariah 7:

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

I can relate to the immense importance of both these pronouncements; but, again, did these prophets hear the audible voice of God? Or did they feel a strong impression or simply employ a prophetic literary device? Or is this just part of a story? Does the mere fact that they are represented as speaking the words of God provide proof that the Bible contains inerrant inspiration in these cases?

I don’t think so. I would love for the Bible to be inerrant. I wish the Bible were inerrant. But my wishing the Bible to be inerrant does not make it so.

Do Inerrantists Make False Assumptions about You in Discussions?

Next time I will share 5 common false assumptions inerrantists make about me as a progressive believer. Do you think they make the same about you?

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?

See also:
Books and Resources on Inerrancy


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18 Responses to Biblical Inerrancy, the Book of Mormon, and The Qur’an

  1. tonycutty says:

    Great piece. And I could probably predict the five assumptions – looking forward to reading the next instalment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks, Tony. And I am sure you can predict the assumptions–perhaps all of them. They are so repetitious.


  2. Perry says:

    “I would love for the Bible to be inerrant. I wish the Bible were inerrant. But my wishing the Bible to be inerrant does not make it so.” Yes, it would simplify things so. But insecurity about inerrancy is what I believe drives many to try to force others to say it’s inerrant. EXAMPLES: Many Southern Baptist organizations & seminaries where staff have had to sign inerrancy statements or be fired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      You know, Perry, you may very well be right on target that insecurity about inerrancy drives many to a firm commitment to inerrancy. There can be a LOT of fear and discomfort involved in considering that the Bible is not inerrant–and pain. Oh, I had a lot of pain–more than a year of deep existential anguish and of mourning of the loss of God.

      I write about it here if anyone is interested:


      • Chas says:

        Tim, that insecurity about inerrancy is probably very real, since it potentially jeopardises a person’s belief, and what they have come to rely on. Without the words of the bible, they might have nothing left to support their belief. For some time, I have been discussing the subject of inerrancy with a good friend. She has been reading the bible since childhood, and began to speak in tongues at about 16. She has been unshakably remaining in her belief that the bible is inerrant, even though I have put it to her that DNA proves that God exists, since all life has come from the first lifeform that God created on earth, and hence the bible account cannot be true.. Just over a week ago, I put to her the proposition that the stories concerning the birth of Jesus in Luke and Matthew are mutually exclusive (a point made here recently), so If one was true, the other could not be true. As yet, I have received no response to that proposition.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I think insecurity about inerrancy can be very real. I hope you are able to help your friend work through that,


  3. Keith A. Jenkins says:

    You say, “I would love for the Bible to be inerrant. I wish the Bible were inerrant.” I guess a lot of people feel that way. But I don’t. I’m glad the Bible isn’t inerrant. I’m glad it’s such a human document. Why? Because that matches the way God is portrayed throughout the Bible. God isn’t shown as one who overpowers us, overwhelming our flawed humanity, burying it beneath perfect divinity. Instead, God is shown, time after time, working alongside God’s People, using us to move the Kingdom forward, in spite of our limitations. In other words, God is Incarnational before Jesus and after Jesus. God is always Incarnational. So, it is fitting that the Bible should be just as human and limited and flawed as we are. For me, that makes it perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Keith, I agree. I like the Bible the way it is; to approach it properly we have to work at it and we have to think. My point is that my wishing it to be inerrant for so long did not make it inerrant and, though it would be nice to have an inerrant Bible, we don’t–and never have had.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    Like you say above, I think a lot of inerrantists believe the way they do because of insecurity and pain. The world is so chaotic and scary sometimes, and they need something to hold on to. They think, “If I cannot believe in this, then what can I believe? If I cannot trust the supposed words of God, then how can I ever trust anyone?” And for that, I have some sympathy for inerrantists.

    Still, though, it can be a very frustrating argument nonetheless. And I’m going to guess that one of the assumptions about you is that you don’t/haven’t read the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl, Bingo! The first item I list is ‘You should read the Bible’. I agree with you that the world is chaotic and scary so that an inerrant Bible brings a sense of certainty and comfort. But, of course, it is really a blinder and a burden that prevents us from really getting into the Bible.


  5. As they say, inerrancy established a doctrine/text to believe in, but at the expense of an actual relationship to have faith in. The Bible itself is full of guidance on having a relationship with the Spirit, but inerrantists boil that down to reading the Bible.

    I would note, though, that Muhammad killed hundreds of people almost immediately after making his claims of divine knowledge. It’s pretty clear that he was simply seeking to raise an army for his own agenda of revenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Prog, I like your idea that inerrancy promotes specific belief over relationship. And you are right that Muhammad contributed to a brutal world, but I don’t think it was to raise an army for an agenda of revenge. He had an intense hatred toward idolatry.


      • Have you read anything about his relationship with Mecca?

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Prog, I know that Mecca, and the Kaaba stone that was (and is) there were important to Muhammad. He was run out of Mecca, went to Medina for 10 years, I think, and then was able to come back to Mecca triumphantly. Mecca is the most holy city for Muslims.

          So it was a very close relationship between Muhammad and Mecca.


  6. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I’m afraid I just think that the Book of Mormon is ridiculous. The claims it makes are not believable. But it could be viewed as a work of ethical fiction. The Koran on the other hand is a mixture similar to the Old Testament. It should be remembered that each chapter is dedicated to God – the Compassionate, the Merciful. But there are many troubling passages in the Koran. The instructions to terrify the infidel etc. can be compared to passages in the Old Testament. The Day of Judgement also reflects Revelation. Unfortunately the “sin of Lot” which is presumed to be homosexualtiy is repeatedly condemned. So I am ambivalent about the Koran but no more so than the Bible. Islam would benefit from a new interpretation similar to Progressive Christianity – hopefully deleting the violent passages and archaic attitudes to sexuality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I agree that both the Book of Mormon and the Koran have serious problems. I would not read either of them for guidance. But, as you say, the Bible has difficulties of its own, and we need to recognize that in order to approach it appropriately.


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