Does the Lack of Original Autographs Make Biblical Inerrancy Irrelevant?

by Aaron Brake

Biblical inerrancy may be defined as follows:

[W]hen all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.[1]

One important element of this definition is that inerrancy only applies to the original autographs. But since we no longer have possession of the original autographs, the question is often raised, “Of what use or importance is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy? Is biblical inerrancy even relevant?” Some conclude that inerrancy is altogether irrelevant. In his book Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman states,

I kept reverting to my basic question: how does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired, but only the words copied by the scribes—sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly? What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies….”[2]

This objection, left unanswered, may undermine our confidence and trust in Scripture, leading some to reject the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and others to conclude it is wholly irrelevant…

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Does the Lack of Original Autographs Make Biblical Inerrancy Irrelevant?