F. David Farnell

How Heterodoxy Becomes Orthodox Through Psychological Operations, i.e. how heresy infiltrates God’s People


What is the true nature of the historical-critical method of liberal biblical scholars that has been so whole-heartedly adopted by critical, evangelical scholars?  How can one place its true nature on a practical level of understanding for the average reader of the Scriptures?  How should the layperson or serious Bible student understand the impact of historical criticism on their understanding of Scripture?  These questions go to the very heart of understanding historical criticism in its impact, both ideological and psychological, on the Bible interpreter when it is applied to the exegesis of the biblical text.  Indeed, few exegetes understand this very important principle that is involved in historical criticism.  Historical Criticism is the gold-standard for “magic” used by liberal and evangelical critical scholars to make the biblical text conform to modernistic, popular fads that now rule the biblical scholarly world.  Indeed, true magic does exist, and it is found in historical criticism!

In its essential nature, historical criticism is a psychological operation that is conducted on the mind to control thinking and/or behavior.  Psychological operation may be defined as planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences in order to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of groups, and individuals.  Its aim is to control people’s thinking in a desired way for a desired outcome.  Integral to perception management, psychological operations are designed to induce or reinforce attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives.

The British were one of the first major military powers to use psychological warfare in both World Wars in a very scientific manner through, although many of the principles used go back to ancient times.  The British Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) may be considered the most prominent of such endeavors.[1]  Indeed, this institute may be considered the leading center for manipulating belief and behavior.  They have perfected the science of manipulating minds.

A central concept of any psychological operation is to use accepted terms but to change their meaning to one that is desired by someone conducting the operationThe essence of a psychological operation is to confuse meaning of words and infiltrate the mind with conflicting concepts to change one’s thinking toward a desired goal of those who are conducting the operation.  It uses misleading language to manipulate any person to produce in them a desired outcome.  Each word claims to be something that in reality it is not or at least not to be understood in its original, tradition sense.  It creates confusion in the person regarding the original intent of the term so as to establish a desired, changed definition or understanding, i.e. infiltrate the mind with conflicting concepts so as to produce the desired change in thinking.


A prominent example of this change in definitions is found in the book 1984, written in 1949 by famed British writer George Orwell (whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair), the writer warned of the manipulation of words and their meanings as an important key to controlling what people think about someone or something.  He called “newspeak” defined by Merriam-Webster as a noun, often capitalized, for propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings. Newspeak was a language “designed to diminish the range of thought,” in the novel 1984.  Words were imbued with meaning in “Newspeak” that were totally emptied of their original meaning to serve the purposes of those in control.  Also employed is “doublethink,” another term that Orwell popularized through his work, although he did not use the terms.  “Doublethink” used terms that could be used in conflicting ways so language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words from its normative, original sense.  Its goal is to confuse the meaning of words for a desired outcome.[2]

Why bring up such a subject?  Because one can only truly understand the nature of historical criticism by viewing it in this manner.  At its heart, historical criticism is neither “historical” or “critical” in the traditional sense of the term.  It may be viewed like the popular commercial cereal “Grape Nuts.” The product is neither grapes nor nuts.  It is plant based instead.  In a way,  the term is Doublespeak and Newspeak.  So also is the term “historical criticism.” It does not genuinely believe Biblical revelation contains history in the sense of what actually happened in a time-space continuum.  Instead, historical criticism is post-modernistic that asserts all history is by nature a subjective interpretation of surviving traces of events.  Hence, Scripture does not convey what actually happened.  Even when the Bible presents itself in its plain, normal sense as conveying historical information, historical criticism a priori rejects its history outright.  It is already biased against history in any tradition sense of the term.  So it is not “historical” in the normal understanding of the term “history” or “what happened in the past.”

Moreover, it is not criticism, for “criticism” for criticism, in its traditional, normative sense, refers to applying criteria to any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style.  In other words, criticism to be truly “criticism” seeks an objective outcome of true understanding of any literature.  Historical criticism does not seek an objective, authentic (i.e. true to the text) outcome of the biblical writings.  The goal of its criticism is to change the plain, normal sense of the text to an already predetermined outcome that is acceptable to the critic’s whims and/or desires.  What is “acceptable” to him or her, rather than evaluating any text for what it truly is. The historical critics goal to interpret the biblical text according to the current fads of the time.  Traditional meaning or understanding is not its goal.  The goal is conformity of the text to the subjective “sensibility” of the critic.

Herein lies the “magic” of historical criticism.  When the text of Scripture offends current sensibilities or perceptions, i.e. “fads” and “popular ideas” of the critics day, the biblical critic can apply historical criticism in any way desired to the text to guarantee the interpretive outcome.  For instance, Genesis 1-3 presents itself as historic events in a time-space continuum as recording the creation of the universe as well as the earth.  Yet, modern historical-critics, having been conditioned by current scientism override the plain, normal sense of Scripture and dismiss the account as either non-historical, figurative, or false.  Such an action is hardly objective or seeking to understand the literature as the original author expressed in the text.  Another instance would be found in Matthew 23 wherein Jesus excoriated the Pharisees of his day in what is now considered “politically incorrect” and shocking terms.  In light of holocaustic hermeneutics, i.e. the post-World War II prevalent thinking of the day even evangelical critics are dismissive of this chapter as being historically inaccurate.  Jesus’ words are dismissed as not spoken by him since one might the accusation of being “anti-semitic” through acceptance of the chapter as genuine.  Instead, the cause of these tensions between Jesus and the Pharisees is attributed to an alleged conflict between Matthew’s assumed community and the Jews of Matthew’s day in the synagogue.  Indeed, Westerholm attributes these sayings in the following terms, “The Gospels’ depiction of Pharisees reflect both memories from the career of Jesus and subsequent development in  the Christian communities.”[3]  Donald Hagner similarly writes, “It is a tragedy that from this Matthew [ch. 23] that the word ‘Pharisee’ has come to mean popularly a self-righteous, hypocritical prig. Unfortunately, not even Christian scholarship was able over the centuries to rid itself of an unfair bias against the Pharisees.”[4]  R. J. Wyatt suggests that the only accurate way to understand the Pharisees is to bring in rabbinic literature’s and Josephus’s information about them as an equal contribution to the Gospels.  Here, second temple Judaistic literature is brought into equal authority with the Gospels in determining what the Pharisees were actually like in history.[5]  Apparently, the Gospels only give part of the perception in Wyatt’s mind.

Interestingly, Hagner admits in another one of his works, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, that historical criticism invented by German and British scholars was used by modern Jewish interpreters to remove this bias against the Pharisees that the Gospels portrayed in Jesus’ actions and of Jesus’ negative attitude toward Judaism in general as indicated in the Gospels: “[t]o the extent that the conclusions of nineteenth-century critical scholarship supported Jewish claims concerning Jesus, they were gladly accepted.  Jesus became the reformer of Judaism; Paul, the creator of Christianity.  In short, for Jewish modern scholarship the modern period is best characterized as the phrase, ‘the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.’”[6]  How could Jesus be now seen by both modern Christian scholars as well as Jewish scholars in a more acceptable, less hostile attitude toward Judaism that is portrayed in the Gospels?  Liberal application of historical-critical ideologies to erase the plain, normal sense of the Gospels.  Historical criticism is what enables the Gospel portrayal of Jesus and his attitudes’ toward Judaism to be radically modified by the motivations of second temple Judaism as well as the New Perspective on Paul accomplished by E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, all of whom seek to make Jesus more acceptable to Jewish sensibilities, to mention only a few.[7]

Historical criticism magically makes the politically incorrect problem disappear by being dismissive of the historical accuracy of the Gospels in recording the words and deeds of Jesus.  Hence, it is neither historical or critical in the traditional sense of the terms.  Historical critics, liberal and evangelical, constantly use this magic of historical criticism to remove anything in the Biblical record that affronts their biases and subjective sensibilities. Should a critic dislike the creation account of Genesis 1-3, especially in light of current evolutionary fads that predominate in academic university, historical criticism can be judiciously applied to negate the plain, normal sense of the biblical creation account.  The same thing goes for Job, Jonah, prophetic announcements in Isaiah, etc.  Importantly, historical criticism is ideologically based in philosophies of the Enlightenment, deism, romanticism, evolution, existentialism.  It is far from neutral.[8]  Historical criticism is the preferred psychological operation that is employed on the biblical text to remove any plain, normal sense that would offend the sensibilities of the interpreter.  This basis provides the predominant reason that liberal critics apply it so generously to the biblical text because their personal biases and sensibilities reject the obvious or plain, normative assertions or implications of the text.  This also most likely explains why evangelical critical scholars so whole-heartedly embrace it since they operate in a world of academia that would reject them if these evangelical critical scholars embraced the natural sense of the text, for academia would have little patience with them, thereby risking professional reputations as scholars.[9]  Historical criticism can be applied to remove anything that the interpreter finds objectionable due to subjective bias against the text, all the while the interpreter can maintain the façade of his interpretation being critically proper and having the outward appearance of “neutral” or “scientific,” when, it in fact, both he/she and historical criticism is hopelessly biased before any genuine criticism of the biblical text has begun.


Historically, the overarching goal of The ICBI Statements of on Inerrancy (1978) and Hermeneutics (1982) was to prevent this psychological operation and assault of historical criticism on the biblical text.  These documents arose as hard-won victories, as well as warnings to future generations of evangelicals, from previous decades of attacks on the trustworthiness of the Bible. Significantly, these documents affirm “grammatico-historical” rather than “historical-critical” hermeneutics as employed by these critically trained evangelicals.  Why? Because the authors and those who signed their affirmation to these documents knew the ruinous impact that historical-critical ideologies had upon God’s Word in church history.  However, these British and European critically trained evangelicals who now advocate the adoption of some form of historical-criticism have effectively annulled the ideas framed in these two hard-won documents because they have forgotten history, especially the reasons why these articles were formulated.

First, the ICBI developers knew that historical criticism dehistoricizes the plain, normal reading of the text.  Article XVIII reads:

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

What is the true essence of this term “historical criticism” which arose from the days of Spinoza?  It is the ingredient that is used to make the Bible say whatever the researcher wants it to say.  It is the acid dissolvent that destroys the plain, normal sense of Scripture and, in turn, can make the Bible reflect any prejudice of the interpreter that is imposed on the text.  When Bible “scholars” want to make the Bible say something that it does not naturally say, they apply judiciously and generous portions of historical criticism to accomplish that magic!  When Bible “scholars” are a priori in conflict, either presuppositionally or subjectively, by something in the OT or NT, i.e. find it unacceptable to them for a variety of their own prejudices, it allows the scholar to remake anything in Scripture to their own liking–either by negating it entirely or manufacturing an entirely different sense or meaning for a particular portion of Scripture.  It allows the Bible to be REMOLDED into something acceptable to the “critical” scholar’s whims. The philosophical pedigree of historical criticism guarantees that magic of transforming the Bible into something more acceptable to the modern, critical mind.  This has been most prominent in “historical Jesus” research in which historical-critical criteria are the tools that German- and British-trained critical scholars use (borrowed from Spinoza) to find a Jesus that their critical presuppositions have already decided on in order to determine how they think He must really, truly be—a Jesus they find acceptable to them.   These authenticity criteria tools are the “solvent” that allows critical scholars to dissolve the canonical Gospels and the information therein in order to find a Jesus that they prefer through the genius of an a priori application of historical criticism.  However, no two critical scholars agree on the same list of criteria or their exact definition and natureproof positive that great evangelical confusion exists over terminology and the practice of interpretation

In contrast, the goal of the grammatico-historical method is to find the meaning which the authors of Scripture intended to convey and the meaning comprehended by the recipients.  Special allowance/provision is made for (1) inspiration, (2) the Holy Spirit, and (3) inerrancy. It may be understood as the study of inspired Scripture designed to discover under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the meaning of a text dictated by the principles of grammar and the facts of history.

“Grammatico-historical” criticism, advocated by the both the Reformers as well as the signers of the ICBI statements of 1978 and 1982, allows the Bible to say what it naturally says plainly and normally without an a priori agenda as with historical-critical ideologies.  As more recent evangelicals receive their education from schools that advocate some form of historical criticism, an unstable blending of these two approaches is occurring.  Much confusion exists in current evangelical circles regarding grammatico-historical and historical-critical approaches to exegesis.[10]  These two hermeneutical disciplines are distinct and must not be confused by evangelicals.  In contrast to the Reformation roots of the grammatico-historical method, the historical-critical hermeneutic has its roots in deism, rationalism, and the Enlightenment. Edgar Krentz, favorable to the practice, readily admits in his The Historical-Critical Method that “Historical method is the child of the Enlightenment.”[11] Maier, opposed to historical criticism, argued, “historical criticism over against a possible divine revelation presents an inconclusive and false counterpart which basically maintains human arbitrariness and its standards in opposition to the demands of revelation.”[12]

The Magic of Genre Criticism as a Sub-Discipline of Historical Criticism

Another way that historical criticism, used especially by critical evangelical scholars, is assaulting the Scripture through genre criticism.  The word “genre” is French term for “style of literature types.”  Very basically, two literary types exist: either that which is prose (plain, normal understanding)/to be understood in some literal sense) or that which is poetry (to be understood in some non-literal, or symbolic, figurative sense).  Thus, literal or figurative. Other terms can be used, but these two basics are the dividing line in genre. Critical evangelical scholars, borrowing heavily from their critical counterparts for academic recognition and influence, often use technical terminology in genre criticism that signals their desire to dehistoricize the Gospels, such as “midrash” or “apocalyptic Judaism” genre.  In 1982, Robert Gundry in his Matthew, A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art, is famous for using “midrash” genre to dismiss much of the historical content of Matthew 1-3.  Much of the contents of these infancy narratives struck Gundry a historically objectionable or untrue, i.e. he believed that these events surrounding Jesus’ life did not happen in the time-space continuum of history since they had no extra-biblical confirmation in outside historical sources other than Matthew.  Gundry used the “magic” of genre to remove his bias against the infancy narratives.  Here are some examples of Gundry’s use of the “magic” of genre or style to dehistoricize the text of Matthew 1-3 that he found objectionable:

(1) “Clearly, Matthew treats us to history mixed with elements that cannot be called historical in a modern sense.  All history writing entails more or less editing of materials.  But Matthew’s editing often goes beyond acceptable bounds . . . Matthew’s subtractions, additions, and revisions of order and phraseology often show changes in substance; i.e., they represent developments of the dominical tradition that result in different meanings and departures from the actuality of events” (p. 623). [13]

(2) “Comparison with the other gospels, especially with Mark and Luke, and examination of Matthew’s style and theology show that he materially altered and embellished historical traditions and that he did so deliberately and often” (p. 639).

(3) “We have also seen that at numerous points these features exhibit such a high degree of editorial liberty that the adjectives ‘midrashic’ and ‘haggadic’ become appropriate” (p. 628).  Midrash means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.

(4) “We are not dealing with a few scattered difficulties.  We are dealing with a vast network of tendentious changes” (p. 625).  This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.

(5) “Hence, ‘Jesus said’ or ‘Jesus did’ need not always mean that in history Jesus said or did what follows, but sometimes may mean that in the account at least partly constructed by Matthew himself Jesus said or did what follows” (p. 630).  This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.

(6) “Semantics aside, it is enough to note that the liberty Matthew takes with his sources is often comparable with the liberty taken with the OT in Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Targums, and the Midrashim and Haggadoth in rabbinic literature” (p. 628).   This means it did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.

(7) “These patterns attain greatest visibility in, but are by no means limited to, a number of outright discrepancies with the other synoptics.  At least they are discrepancies so long as we presume biblical writers were always intending to write history when they used the narrative mode”
(p. 624).

(8). “Matthew selects them [the Magi] as his substitute for the shepherds in order to lead up to the star, which replaces the angel and heavenly host in the tradition” (p. 27).  The Magi, the star and the heavenly hosts did not happen as is presented in the Gospels.

(9). “That Herod’s statement consists almost entirely of Mattheanisms supports our understanding Matthew himself to be forming this episode out of the shepherd’s visit, with use of collateral materials.  The description of the star derives from v. 2.  The shepherds’ coming at night lies behind the starry journey of the magi” (p. 31).

(10). “He [Matthew] changes the sacrificial slaying of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ which took place at the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev 12:6–8), into Herod’s slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem (cf. As. Mos. 6:2–6” (pp. 34, 35).  This means these did not happen in history as it was presented in the Gospels.

What proof did Gundry have for these assertions?  None.  He found these areas personally objectionable to his own subjective sense of “history,” so he used the magic of genre to dismiss the biblical text.  When one examines the text of Matthew, the context clearly presents these as events that happened historically in the time-space continuum.  The reader of this article is highly encouraged to examine the surrounding context of Matthew 1-3.  Contextual clues and markers abound in these chapters to give every impression in the plain, normal reading of the text that historical events were being related by the writer Matthew (genealogical records of births in the time-space continuum in Matthew 1:1–17; historical events of the Jewish Babylonian deportation are mentioned in Matthew 1:17; the account of Jesus’ birth into human existence is recounted in Matthew 1:18-25, including engagement of Jewish couples as well as the scandal of birth out of wedlock that occurred in the culture in Matthew; historical figures are mentioned who interacted with the birth of the child, such as Herod and the Magi from the East are detailed, including the child’s early childhood and flight down into the country of Egypt in Matthew 2:1-23, with many temporal markers noted such as “when Jesus was born,” “days of Herod,” “magi arrived from the East,” “the exact time the star appeared,” “after coming into the house,” “they left for Egypt,” “when Herod died,” etc. etc. etc.  No clear signals exist to the reader of the text that anything in the overall text should not be understood as non-historical.  Unfortunately, this did not deter Gundry from being quite dismissive of the text historically.  Why?  Perhaps the text just didn’t existentially “feel” somehow right to him subjectively.  However, genre and historical criticism allowed him to dismiss history and appear to readers of the commentary that he had objectivity on his side.  He did not.

Similarly, Craig Blomberg, used genre criticism when he found something in the text of Matthew as personally somehow objectionable, i.e. Jesus’ command to Peter of the coin in the fish’s mouth is not historical, it did not happen (Matt. 17:24–27).  Craig Blomberg asserts in reference to the story of the coin in the fish’s mouth in Matthew 17:24–27, “It is often not noticed that the so-called miracle of the fish with the coin in its mouth (Matt 17:27) is not even a narrative; it is merely a command from Jesus to go to the lake and catch such a fish.  We don’t even know if Peter obeyed the command.  Here is a good reminder to pay careful attention to the literary form.”[14]  To him, this story is not literal, it is figurative.  In other words, even if from the early church to the 21st century, the orthodox church understood this as an actual event that happened with Jesus and Peter, Blomberg knows the read nature of the text since he is an evangelical critical scholar who is well respected in academia.  The very weight of his reputation must mean that he is correct, at least one assumes.  How the reader of Matthew would discern this lack of historicity here is not made clear by Blomberg.  However, his “magic” use of historical criticism obfuscates his arbitrary, selective judgment,  the reader of his assertions.  No substantive evidence is provided, just psychological impact Blomberg’s reputation has is all that suffices for such arbitrary decisions.  The reader of this article is highly encouraged to examine the context surrounding Matthew 17:24-27.  The narrative in Matthew 17 is presented with historical markers, “When they came to Capernaum,” “those who collected the two-drachma tax said to Peter,” Jesus issues a command to go depart and fish, Jesus predicts a coin is predicted to be found.  The only thing lacking is a resolution statement that says “and Peter fished and found the coin and paid the tax.”  All the other events in Matthew 17, both before and after, are presented as historical developments in the life of Jesus, why should this one be different?  Because they somehow subjectively impacted Blomberg negatively.  He warns the reader of his assertions to pay attention to the literary form.  This is good advice for Blomberg that Blomberg himself does not follow.  Both before and after, the genre is relating historical events.  No signal is given to the reader that this event in the midst of Matthew 17 should not be taken otherwise.  It flows naturally in Matthew’s relating of the events before as well as in Matthew 18.  The reasonable conclusion is that Blomberg is arbitrary, capricious in his exegetical assertions, and without any true warrant or substance in his assertions in any close examination of the context of the narrative in Matthew 17.  Moreover, Blomberg defended Robert Gundry’s midrashic approach to the Gospels in the following terms, so part of the magic of historical criticism is the “group-think” of the psychological operation that critical evangelical scholars employ.  They are a very united voice for each other, defending each other’s decisions.  They move as a group, and only rarely disagree with each other for academic respectability among them is a strong motivating factor against criticism:

Is it possible, even inherently probable, that the NT writers at least in part never intended to have their miracle stories taken as historical or factual and that their original audiences probably recognized this? If this sounds like the identical reasoning that enabled Robert Gundry to adopt his midrashic interpretation of Matthew while still affirming inerrancy, that is because it is the same. The problem will not disappear simply because one author [Gundry] is dealt with ad hominem . . . how should evangelicals react? Dismissing the sociological view on the grounds that the NT miracles present themselves as historical gets us nowhere. So do almost all the other miracle stories of antiquity. Are we to believe them all?[15]

Michael Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach,[16] used a genre based criticism known as bios as a means of de-historicizing parts of the Gospel (i.e. the resurrection of the saints after Jesus crucifixion in Matthew 27:51–53 is non-literal genre or apocalyptic rather than an actual historical event).  Although Michael Licona’s work defends Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the assumption of genre hermeneutic known as apocalyptic or eschatological Jewish texts whereby Licona dismisses the historicity of Matthew 27:51-53 (and its recording of the resurrection of saints) results effectively in the complete evisceration and total negation of His strong defense of Jesus’ resurrection.  His logic is self-defeating for his main assertion of Jesus’ resurrection.

  Licona argued “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches . . . and they often included legend.  Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins.”[17]  Licona labels it a “strange little text”[18] and terms it “special effects” that have no historical basis.[19] Apparently, his subjective bias reacted negatively to this text as a historical event.  His apparent concern also rests with only Matthew as mentioning the event.  He concludes that “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel.”[20]  Hence, once again the “magic” of historical criticism and genre removes the problem for Licona. If the events in Matthew 27:51-53 are held that way, nothing—absolutely nothing—stops critics from applying a similar kind of logic to Jesus’ resurrection and reject its historicity.  Licona’s logic here is self-defeating and undermines his entire work on defending the resurrection.  Would the average reader have detected this in reading Matthew 27 as the narrative unfolds?  One would hope that Licona would take the events both before and after the resurrection of the saints as historically happening in Matthew, such as Jesus’ cry from the cross, the ripping of the temple veil that happened prior to the event he rejects, as well as the soldier’s exclamation regarding Jesus afterward as historical.  Somehow, however, the story in the middle strikes him subjectively strange, and he uses the magic of historical criticism and genre to make it more reasonable to him by dismissing the resurrection of the saints as historical.  Problem solved? No. For all these events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion both before and after are connected by a series of “and,” i.e. this happened, “and” this happened, “and” this happened.  It is highly, highly dubious to suggest any reader of Matthew 27 would have taken this resurrection of the saints event as any different in “genre” than the surrounding historical events delineated to the reader.

Another example is Darrell Bock and Robert Webb.  They use the “magic” of historical criticism to appear as critical scholars who defend the Gospel by assuming a distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, a distinction made popular by radical liberalism.  IF such a distinction were true, and it is NOT, then nothing in the Gospels could be trusted.  Under the guise of defending the Gospel accounts, they actually accomplish the opposite, i.e. cast grave suspicion on its historical veracity.  Here are some of their assertions:

(1) Jesus’ resurrection “probably” happened is the best we can say about this event and others historically because evangelicals must operate under post-modernistic historiography as a premise.

My Reply: (a) If they “probably” happened, then they might not have happened! Please tell us which ones, in your “evangelical critical opinion, might not have happened or did not happen or what aspects of them did not occur; (b) probability in the mind of the beholder!; (c) What enemies or even skeptics would be convinced by such logic—please name those you won over by your “logic.”

(2) The Gospels only give us the “footprints” of Jesus or the “surviving traces” of his life:

My Reply: (a) If all we have is “footprints” then what can you tell about Jesus?  Not much! (b) Is the word that these “critical evangelicals” use, i.e. “surviving traces” in reference to the Gospel text a term that honors the Word of God, and in this instance, canonical Gospels? (c) Who judges what is a surviving trace and what is not?  Are these more “inspired” than other elements in the Gospels?

(3) The Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of history are not necessarily the same.  This category is fully legitimate for evangelicals to assert.

My Reply: Then tell us how Jesus was different in history and in faith?  Only God’s Holy Spirit is capable of truly presenting a matter as to how it actually was in a time-space continuum; (b)  Since when are Faith and history in conflict, unless one capitulates to alien, philosophical and unbiblical assumptions?

(4)  We must search for the historical Jesus to find out how Jesus was actually in history and what he really said and did.

My reply: (a) NO WE DON’T.  The Gospels tell us that; (b) This tacitly, if not very explicitly, blasphemes God’s Spirit in the process of inspiration of the Gospel text.

(5)  All history is interpretation.  The Gospels are historical interpretations.  The Gospels contain surviving traces of Jesus’ life but, they have been placed into historical narratives that have been interpreted according to the writers’ perspectives.  In order to discover the “surviving traces” of Jesus’ life, we must apply criteria of authenticity based in critical methods to determine if the events actually happened as they are portrayed.

My Reply: The God of Scripture does not “interpret.”  He is the ground of all reality.  Therefore, the Gospels are the objective account of Jesus’ life without “spin” or bias but God’s account of what really happened as well as what he reveals through special revelation.

(6) A scale of probability, possibility or not historically verifiable must be used for the 100s of Gospel events.

My reply: (a) Please produce the “critical evangelical” study Bible with various color shades to show where each one of the 100s of Gospel stories fall into their scale.  The pages would mostly be white with nothing verifiable in their logic.

Conclusion of the “Magic” of Historical Criticism

Admittedly, Part of this I article has been brief.  Historical Criticism is a psychological operation designed by men to cast doubt the Word of God. That is its very intent historically and presuppositionally. It can never lose that detrimental impact no matter how hard critical evangelical scholars try to reform or deform it.[21]  Whose critical evangelical scholars form of it should we accept since they ALL disagree on its characteristics when they modify it?

A few more point needs to be said.  First, conservative evangelicals like myself who hold to inerrancy, i.e. the writer of this article, believe in criticism of the Bible, but it is the kind, quality, and presuppositions of criticism that is employed that must be the central question.  Please do not use the aged canard or straw man that evangelical critical scholars use that conservative evangelicals like myself don’t believe in criticism of the Bible.  This charge is specious.

Second, who would be convinced of the surety of the Gospels or God’s Word?  While giving the assertion of affirming God’s Word, these evangelical critical scholars instead assault it and undermine it.  I can think of no better way of undermining God’s Word in the eyes of God’s people than what is being perpetrated through critical evangelical scholars use of historical criticism.

Finally, perhaps most strategically, the son of Thunder, John the Apostle and an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, ministry, resurrection, and ascension, gives believers a clear indication of what to think of historical criticism and its magic or any other type of criticism.  John is clear that the Holy Spirit is the Witness to the truth of God’s Word. The genuine impact of the Holy Spirit on a truly born again person is an affirmation, not doubt, of God’s Word as composed by the Apostles who were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 2 Peter 1:19-21.

John 14:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

26 But the Helper,[22] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 16:13-14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 But when that one, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears, he will speak; and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 That one will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

1 John 2:19-22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, so that they would be revealed that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, even the one who denies the Father and the Son.

Historical Criticism and its “magic” casts doubt on God’s Word.  For a genuine, born again believer, the Holy Spirit affirms God’s Word. His precious Spirit does not cast doubt.  Would God’s Spirit be involved in such a process as critical, evangelical scholars involve themselves in historical criticism as detailed here that raises up speculation and doubt?  The net result of Historical criticism is that it subtlety and not so subtly blasphemes God’s Spirit and His written testimony in His Word that He inspired.  I call on evangelical, critical scholars for personal, spiritual introspection of what they are sowing in the seeds of their use of historical criticism.  If critical, evangelical scholars deem this statement to be “unscholarly,” then this present writer affirms the Lordship of Jesus Christ over any form of pseudo-scholarship and encourages critical, evangelical scholars to seek another line of work than ministry for the Word of God, for too much damage is done within the church through advocacy of historical criticism from those professing to know the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How “Errancy” Masquerades as “Inerrancy”

As the above has expressed, psychological operations are a central force in the historical-critical method, i.e. ideology.  It is neither “historical” since its assumption of pot-modernistic historiography (i.e. post-modernism) does not believe that real knowledge of history is possible, or even desirable, since only surviving traces of events remain, nor is it critical since it seeks a preconceived, a priori outcome since its focus is not upon “truth” but upon preconceived conclusions that it desires to reach.  The essence of any psychological operation is to change definitions and affect the mind of those who would be the object of that operation.  Such an operation has occurred especially in the area of the orthodox definition of inerrancy as defined by the Chicago Statements on Inerrancy (1978) and Hermeneutics (1982) by critically-trained neo-evangelicals who now hold sway in academia.

Such operations are vastly more effective than outright assaults on ideas and concepts.  Outright assaults often, if not almost exclusively, receive immediate opposition and rejection of any opposing idea that attempts replacement.  Psychological operations against current thinking are much more effective because they are (1) more subtle and careful, indirect rather than direct.  To replace an idea effectively time must be taken to replace concepts without awareness of that process being realized.  This is the “magic” of historical-critical ideologies.  (2) Another reason is that historical-criticism, at heart, is parasitic, adaptive and pliable in its approach.  That is, historical criticism’s indirect assault on the biblical text is adoptive of standard, even orthodox terminology but changes those meanings elusively over time, i.e. it is in no hurry, for the goal or ends justifies the means of changing normative terminology into that which is acceptable to the preconceived notions of the interpreter.

Importantly, a subtle and gradual movement away from orthodox concepts of the integrity of the Scripture in terms of its historical accuracy and meaning is occurring among evangelicals, especially by what is now known as evangelical, critical scholars.[23] A significant portion of evangelicalism no longer adheres to the nascent beliefs of the Christian church of the plenary (complete), verbal (word for word) inspiration (God-breathed) of Scripture and its resultant concomitant inerrancy.  This is not the first time that the church has drifted away from these foundations.  This writer has catalogued such a drift that historically occurred in his article, “Those Who Do Not Learn From The Lessons of History: Inerrancy Under Fire.”  It catalogues the eerily similar drifts among Christian denominations in the early part of the 20th Century when one examines current events among critical, evangelicals scholars in the 21st Century.[24]  Similar historical events that caused the former drift away from the inerrancy and inspiration of the biblical texts now are shaking the foundations of orthodox belief once again.

How Inerrancy No Longer Means What It Says

In order to understand this momentous shift that is now re-occurring in the church, especially in terms of orthodox views of inerrancy, must revisit history, for God’s people so quickly forget. In 1978 and 1982, evangelicals met under the auspices of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.  Its purpose was “the defense and application of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as an essential element for the authority of Scripture and a necessity for the health of the church.  It was created to counter the drift from the important doctrinal foundation by significant segments of evangelicalism and the outright denial of it by other church movements.”[25] ICBI reflects a long history, stretching back to The Fundamentals written in 1915 and reflex the thinking of the vast majority of conservative, orthodox theologians well back into the 20th Century that saw so much denial toward the dehistoricizing of the plain, normal sense of Scripture.  This article is strategic for this discussion of the “magic” of historical criticism since historical criticism’ aim is not to understand the text in its plain, normal sense but to make it pliable to contemporary trends of scholarship, no matter what the era or time.  In contrast, grammatico-historical criticism seeks to discover the meaning of the text that the text conveys, plainly, normally, i.e. letting the text and its context convey the meaning rather than imposing foreign philosophical concepts upon the text.


Article XVIII becomes very pertinent to this discussion of the “magic” of historical criticism that is now being advocated by evangelical critical scholars.  History is being forgotten.  Article XVIII states:

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary form and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

In commenting on this article, R. C. Sproule, one of the founding and principle members of ICBI, made the following comments in his Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary, that explained the committee’s reasoning what grammatico-historical exegesis’ goal is (“We affirm” and what it also was trying to prevent (“We deny”)

Article XVIII touches on some of the most basic principles of biblical interpretation. Though this article does not spell out in detail a vast comprehensive system of hermeneutics, it nevertheless gives basic guidelines on which the framers of the confession were able to agree. The first is that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis (italics added—not in original].  Grammatico-historical is a technical term that refers to the process by which we take the structures and time periods of the written texts seriously as we interpret them. Biblical interpreters are not given the license to spiritualize or allegorize texts against the grammatical structure and form of the text itself [italics added—not in the original].[26]

In this first part is revealed that ICBI, and its heritage reflected in The Fundamentals going back into history of the twentieth century attacks on the biblical text, rejected historical critical hermeneutics for that very reason that it disregarded the historicity of what the text was communicating.  ICBI rejected historical-criticism’s attempt to dehistoricize the plain, normal reading of the text.  Sproule continued,

The Bible is not to be reinterpreted to be brought into conformity with contemporary philosophies but is to be understood in its intended meaning and word usage as it was written at the time it was composed. To hold to grammatico-historical exegesis is to disallow the turning of the Bible into a wax nose that can be shaped and reshaped according to modern conventions of thought. The Bible is to be interpreted as it was written, not reinterpreted as we would like it to have been written according to the prejudices of our own era.[27]

Here ICBI emphasized the (1) grammatico-historical exegesis in direct contrast to the historical-critical method, either combined with grammatico-historical or modified in its more radical form, now maintained by neo-evangelicals.[28]  Why did they commend the grammatico-historical approach?  Because the men who expressed these two watershed statements had experienced the history of interpretive degeneration among mainstream churches and seminaries (“As go the theological seminaries, so goes the church”)[29] in terms of dismissing the Gospels as historical records due to historical-critical ideologies. Any attempt at dismissing the grammatico-historical, plain sense of Scripture is contrary to the orthodox inerrancy view.

Evangelical Historical Critics Embrace Historical Criticism to Remove the Plain, Normal Sense Involved in Orthodox Inerrancy

Many critical-evangelical scholars, especially the large number of those trained in British and Continental European Schools, believe that Historical Criticism can be “modified” in some way to produce positive results for understanding Scripture, both in the OT and NT, i.e. the negative presuppositions can be removed to allow for miraculous.  Evangelicals modify or call for modifying the “definition” of HC to make it compatible to evangelical sensibilities as follows.  I. Howard Marshall, mentor to many evangelical critical scholars today that are achieving such prominence, such as Craig Blomberg and Darrell Bock, in his “Historical Criticism,” article introduced evangelicals influenced by him to his take on the discipline in 1977, “the study of any narrative which purports to convey historical information in order to determine what actually happened and is described or alluded to in the passage in question.”[30] Marshall goes on to note, “Because the Bible is a divine-human book, it must be treated as both equal to and yet more than an ordinary book.  To deny that the Bible should be studied through the use of literary and critical methodologies is to treat the Bible as less than human, less than historical, and less than literature.”[31]  This stands in direct contrast to ICBI 1978 that affirmed that  that warned against dehistoricizing the plain, normal sense of Scripture due to human authorship as noted in Article IX: “We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood in God’s Word.”  Furthermore, his view of the authorship of NT books allowed false attribution, i.e. pseudepigraphy. Marshall expressed his view on “pseudonymous” writings in the New Testament: In order to avoid the idea of deceit, he coined the words “allonymity” and “allepigraphy” in which the prefix pseudos (“false”) is replaced with allos (“other”) which gives a more positive concept to the writing of a work in the name of another person.[32]

Craig Blomberg, in his article on “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical” hermeneutic in the work, Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views,[33] asserts that historical criticism can be “shorn” of its “antisupernatural presuppositions that the framers of that method originally employed” and eagerly embraces “source, form, tradition and redaction criticism” as “all essential [italic and bold added—not in the original] tools for understanding the contents of the original document, its formation and origin, its literary genre and subgenres, the authenticity of the historical material it includes, and its theological or ideological emphases and distinctives.”[34] Blomberg advocates “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View”[35] of hermeneutics for evangelicals that constitutes an alarming, and especially unstable, blend of historical-critical ideologies with the grammatico-historical hermeneutic.  Blomberg argues for a “both-and-and-and-and” position of combining grammatico-historical method with that of historical-critical ideologies.[36] As will be seen, Blomberg’s utilization of historical criticism causes him to start changing his own understanding of the term “inerrancy.”

He labels the “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical” approach “the necessary foundation on which all other approaches must build.”[37]  However, history is replete with negative examples of those who attempted this unstable blend, from the neologians in Griesbach’s day to that of Michael Licona’s book currently under discussion (see below).[38]  Baird, in his History of New Testament Research, commented: “The neologians of the 18th century did not deny the validity of divine revelation but assigned priority to reason and natural theology.  While faith in God, morality, and immortality were affirmed, older dogmas such as the Trinity, predestination, and the inspiration of Scripture were seriously compromised…The neologians…appropriated the results of the historical-critical work of Semler and Michaelis.”[39]  Little difference exists between today’s evangelical historical critics and the neologians of Griesbach’s day in terms of intent to combine popular methods of their day with faith.

Interestingly, Blomberg blames books like Harold Lindsell’s Battle for the Bible (1976) and such books as The Jesus Crisis for people leaving the faith because of their strong stance on inerrancy as a presupposition.  In an online interview conducted by Justin Taylor in 2008, Blomberg responded this way to books that hold to a firm view of inerrancy.  The interviewer asked, “Are there certain mistaken hermeneutical presuppositions made by conservative evangelicals that play into the hands of liberal critics?”  Blomberg replied,

Absolutely. And one of them follows directly from the last part of my answer to your last question. The approach, famously supported back in 1976 by Harold Lindsell in his Battle for the Bible (Zondervan), that it is an all-or-nothing approach to Scripture that we must hold, is both profoundly mistaken and deeply dangerous. No historian worth his or her salt functions that way. I personally believe that if inerrancy means “without error according to what most people in a given culture would have called an error” then the biblical books are inerrant in view of the standards of the cultures in which they were written. But, despite inerrancy being the touchstone of the largely American organization called the Evangelical Theological Society, there are countless evangelicals in the States and especially in other parts of the world who hold that the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative, even if not inerrant, and they are not sliding down any slippery slope of any kind. I can’t help but wonder if inerrantist evangelicals making inerrancy the watershed for so much has not, unintentionally, contributed to pilgrimages like Ehrman’s. Once someone finds one apparent mistake or contradiction that they cannot resolve, then they believe the Lindsells of the world and figure they have to chuck it all. What a tragedy![40]

To Blomberg, apparently anyone who advocates inerrancy as traditionally advocated by Lindsell is responsible for people leaving the faith.

Darrell Bock, another student of Marshall, concurs with Marshall’s definition of historical criticism, whom Bock also studied under at Aberdeen, “I need to introduce these methods because of their importance to the contemporary discussion about Jesus, as well as the potential merit their judicious use brings to an understanding of the Gospels.  Any approach that helps us to understand better the nature of the Gospels and how they might work is worth considering.”[41]  Bock fails to define or explain what he means by “a judicious use,” so one is left wondering what such use may involve.  He hints at the use of form criticism for evangelicals, however, with his statement, “In the hands of a skilled exegete who uses the tools of interpretation in a way that fits what they are capable of, Form Criticism can be a fruitful aid to understanding and exposition.”[42] The Jesus Crisis has already catalogued the bankruptcy of this hubris in that no evangelical scholar who practices historical criticism has been able to separate the skeptical nature of the discipline in exegetical decisions.[43]

Graham N. Stanton writes about the unifying factor historical criticism has been as a reproachment between Protestants and Roman Catholics in hermeneutical approaches, “[t]here is now considerable agreement among Protestants and Roman Catholic scholars about the appropriate tools and methods to be used in exegesis.  Stanton continues, “Presuppositions adopted either consciously or unconsciously by the interpreter are far more influential in New Testament scholarship than disagreements over method.”[44]  Here Stanton reveals that the thin-line between Romanism and Protestantism holds merely at the line of presupposition.  If those presuppositions disappear, then so will the hermeneutical and exegetical differences.

Peter H. Davids also extols the virtue of historical criticism practiced by evangelicals, “The sum of this discussion is that critical study of Scripture can clarify the message that the authors were trying to communicate either by showing how the author came to produce his or her work (through examining sources) or by clarifying the content in which the message was communicated.  And while critical methodologies have undoubtedly led to a doubting of biblical authority by some, that is not their necessary conclusion, but one resulting from assumptions connected to them or perhaps even a misuse of them.”[45]

Donald Hagner, like his evangelical counterparts, admits the danger inherent in historical criticism when it is practiced, “The way out of the quandary [concerning critical method] is neither to continue to use the historical-critical method as classically conceived nor to abandon it outright because of its destructive past, but rather to modify it so as to make it more appropriate to the material being questioned . . . . The historical-critical method is indispensable to any adequate and accurate understanding of the Bible, but only where it is tempered by an openness to the possibility of supernatural causation in the historical process.  Without this tampering of method it is clearly inappropriate and ineffective, given the fact that the Bible is after all the story of God acting in history.  In short, without this tampering, the method can only be destructive.  One of the great challenges facing evangelical scholarship is precisely that of modifying the historical-critical method so that it becomes productive and constructive.”[46]  Hagner does not indicate whether biblical critics as a whole, such as those in the Society of Biblical Literature, would accept this evangelical “tampering” or whose tampered version of historical criticism would be adopted among evangelicals as a whole.

Errancy Now Masquerades As Inerrancy Among Critical Evangelical Scholars

These evangelical quotes about their adoption and definition, or perhaps better, the redefinition of historical criticism to accommodate evangelical beliefs, bring to focus the destructive skepticism that this ideology contains. Because critical evangelical scholars seek to adopt some form of historical criticism, the inevitable result is skepticism regarding biblical revelation.  This is the unavoidable fruit of such recombination or hybridization of the grammatico-historical and historical-critical. The skepticism of historical criticism will always manifest itself in their exegetical decisions that drive their modified hermeneutic that encompasses some form of historical criticism. The core of the critical evangelical scholars’ attempt to redefine inerrancy is the driving reason why new versions, heterodox version of “inerrancy,” now are emerging.  In other words, historical criticism cannot encompass any orthodox view of inerrancy.  Inerrancy views must be shifted to accommodate the skepticism of historical criticism, with the resulting heterodox views of errancy among evangelical critical scholars that masquerade as under the false rubric of “inerrancy.”  That is, they have changed the definition of inerrancy to errancy to accommodate the skepticism of historical criticism.  The following are merely a few examples of the critical evangelical scholars who now stand in prominence in the Evangelical Theological Society, which Society has “inerrancy” as its sole core statement.


The Good News: Blomberg Says He Believes in “Inerrancy”       

One of his most recent works, Can We Still Believe the Bible? constitutes an outstanding example of the psychological operational change in understanding of inerrancy that is now occurring among evangelicals through adoption of historical criticism that ICBI in 1978 opposed as Article XVIII affirms: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary form and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”[47]  Blomberg’s take on these issues in relationship to inerrancy does not correspond to the definition of “inerrancy” that hundreds of evangelical scholars formulated in 1978 and 1982.  While Blomberg says he believes in “inerrancy,” one is left wondering after reading his very recent works, what he means by the term, for his statements indicate he does not hold to an orthodox definition of the term as expressed by ICBI in 1978 and 1982.

His publisher, Baker Books, hails the book in the following terms, “Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals.  In this volume . . . Craig Blomberg offers an accessible and nuanced argument for the Bible’s reliability in response to the extreme views about Scripture and its authority articulated by both sides of the debate. He believes that a careful analysis of the relevant evidence shows we have reason to be more confident in the Bible than ever before. As he traces his own academic and spiritual journey, Blomberg sketches out the case for confidence in the Bible in spite of various challenges to the trustworthiness of Scripture, offering a positive, informed, and defensible approach.”  He dialogues in questions of textual criticism, canon issues, translations, inerrancy, genre interpretation, and miracles, offering various solutions to various problems that center in these topics.  This book is highly commended by Scot McKnight (Northern Seminary), Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), Paul Copan (Palm Beach Atlantic University), Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) and Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals).  Bock himself encourages the reader to “read and consider anew how to think about Scripture” on the back cover.

Blomberg immediately tips his hand regarding the true nature of this work when the dedication page says, “To the faculty, administration, and trustees of Denver Seminary who from 1986 to the present have created as congenial a research environment as a professor could hope for, upholding the inerrancy of Scripture without any of the watchdog mentality that plagues so many evangelical institutions.”[48] (p. v).  So clearly he relates these issues to the topic of inerrancy throughout his work. This statement also reveals the dual nature of this work in that it not only reveals Blomberg’s aberrant take on inerrancy.  While Blomberg says he believes in inerrancy, he works hard to redefine any orthodox understanding of it.

The Bad News: Craig Blomberg Denies Orthodox View of Inerrancy in Practice

Perhaps the term most summarizing the book is “angry rant” against anyone who would disagree with his take on these subjects in his work.  He less than subtly decries “A handful of very conservative Christian leaders who have not understood the issues adequately” as having “reacted by unnecessarily rejecting new developments (pp. 7-8).  The scholars that Blomberg depreciates come from a wide variety of theological positions on Scripture, but what binds them together is their unity of agreement on ICBI statements of 1978 on Inerrancy and 1982 on Hermeneutics.   In his logic, disagreeing with Blomberg or perhaps also those in his fraternity of critical, evangelical scholarship means being too labeled ignorant as well as Nazi-like since he tells of a teacher’s warning to avoid “the far left or the far right” as being related to “Nazism and Communism.”  This also indicates that Blomberg thinks that he has found the proverbial Goldilocks position of perfect middle ground of understanding of biblical issues, especially inerrancy.

One is reminded in reading Blomberg’s work verbiage here of that of Jack B. Rogers, and Donald K. McKim took a similar position in 1979 when they wrote about the 20th Century, “In this century both fundamentalism and modernism sometimes took extreme positions regarding the Bible,”[49] except that Rogers and McKim refrained from name-calling.

In terms of Blomberg’s conception of inerrancy, he attacks “extremely conservative Christians” who continue to insist on following their modern understandings of what should or should not constitute errors in the Bible and censure fellow inerrantists whose views are less anachronistic.[50]”  Blomberg identifies himself as a “fellow inerrantist” but hints that other conservative views are “anachronistic” on inerrancy.

Blomberg’s understanding of inerrancy, however, involves an unusual take on what he terms “genre.”[51]  He relates something that immediately causes the reader to take pause: “Most important, simply because a work appears in narrative form does not automatically historical or biographical in genre.  History and biography themselves appear in many different forms, and fiction can appear identical to history in form.”[52]   He relates that “the way in which the ancients wrote history is clearer now than ever before. Once again the result is that we know much better what we should be meaning when we say we ‘believe the Bible,’ and therefore such belief is more defensible than ever.”[53]

These statements stand in direct contradiction to the ICBI statements on inerrancy as well as hermeneutics.  First, Blomberg here is at odds with ICBI on inerrancy when it states in Article XVIII emphatically that “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship. This, however, is exactly where Blomberg goes in his work a very recent chapter that he contributed to

 The official ICBI commentary on this Article adds, “It is never legitimate, however, to run counter to express biblical affirmations” (emphasis added). Further, in the ICBI commentary on its 1982 Hermeneutics Statement (Article 13) on inerrancy, it adds, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person. Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ” (emphasis added). Its comments in the next article (Article 14) add, “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (emphasis added). Clearly, the CSBI Fathers rejected genre criticism as used by Robert Gundry, Mike Licona, and many other evangelicals.

He attacks “ultraconservatives” who do not abide by his assessment in the following terms, “once again, unfortunately, a handful of ultraconservatives criticize all such scholarship, thinking that they are doing a service to the gospel instead of the disservice that they actually render.”[54]  Apparently, anyone who would be firm in commitment to the integrity of Scripture constitute the real enemy to evangelical critical scholarship.

Because of limited space in a review, Chapter 4, “Don’t These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy” (pp. 119-146) and Chapter 5, “Aren’t Several; Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical” (pp. 147-178) deserve special scrutiny for anyone who would affirm belief, and especially inerrancy, in the Bible.  Blomberg here addresses the “fundamentalist-modernist controversy.”  He claims that the idea of inerrancy as understood by American efforts is largely an American phenomena: “Other branches of evangelicalism, especially in other parts of the world not heavily influenced by American missionary efforts, tend to speak of biblical authority, inspiration, and even infallibility, but not inerrancy.”[55]  He relates that some have “consciously rejected inerrancy as too narrow a term to apply to Scripture.”[56]  He relates that these misunderstandings about inerrancy emerge especially “among those who are noticeably more conservative or those who are noticeably more liberal in their views of Scripture than mainstream evangelicalism.”[57]  He mentions the following who, in his misunderstood inerrancy because they are too conservative: “from the far right of the belief, have evangelical spectrum, Norman Geisler, William Roach, Robert Thomas, and David Farnell attack my writings along with similar ones by such evangelical stalwarts as Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, and Craig Keener as too liberal, threatening inerrancy, or denying the historicity of Scripture.”[58]  In response to this, the writer of this review would urge the reader to examine the latest book from Geisler and Farnell, The Jesus Quest The Danger From Within (Xulon, 2014) to make up their own mind as to the interpretative approaches of Blomberg and these scholar especially in terms of inerrancy (we report, you decide). Blomberg addresses the effect that creeds and confession of Christendom especially in terms of inerrancy.[59]

He relates that “[t]here are two quite different approaches [to inerrancy], moreover, that can lead to an affirmation that Scripture is without error.”[60]  These two approaches are “inductive approach” that “begins with the phenomena of the Bible itself, defines what would count as an error, analyzes Scripture carefully from beginning to end, and determines that nothing has been discovered that would qualify as errant.”[61]  The “deductive approach” that begins with the conviction that God is the author of Scripture, proceeds to the premise by definition that God cannot err, and therefore concludes that God’s Word must be without error.”[62]  He reacts negatively against the deductive approach of “evidentialists and “presuppositonalist” by noting that these two terms “ultimately views inerrancy as a corollary of inspiration, not something to be demonstrated from the texts of Scripture itself.  If the Bible is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and God cannot err, then the Bible must be errant.  Hence, the inductive approach to Blomberg requires that the Bible prove that it is inerrant through critical investigation of the texts themselves rather than the others that just assume the texts are inerrant.  Thus, he shifts the burden of proof from the Bible to that of the scholar.  It is the critical investigator that must establish whether the text is truly inerrant.  Importantly, Blomberg believes that the real debate on inerrancy is one of “hermeneutics.”[63]  Thus, under this logic, one could hold to inerrancy but believe that a particular event in Scripture is really symbolic and not to be taken as literally an event in the time-space continuum (creation in six days).[64]  As a result, “Genesis 1 can be and has been interpreted by inerrantist as referring to a young earth, and old earth, progressive creation, theistic evolution, a literary framework for asserting God as the creator of all things irrespective of his methods, and a series of days when God took up residence in his cosmic temple for the sake of newly created humanity in his image.  Once again, this is a matter for hermeneutical and exegetical debate, not one that is solved by the shibboleth of inerrancy.”[65] (p. 126).  One must note, however, that Blomberg reveals his startling differences with inerrancy as defined by ICBI in 1978: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship. “Here Blomberg’s position is neither grammatical, historical, or literal, for Blomberg argues, “defenders of inerrancy do not reflect often enough on what it means to say that nonhistorical genres are wholly truthful.”[66]  He also reflects a deja vue mantra of Rogers and McKim, who wrote in 1979, “But often without realizing it; we impose on ancient documents twenty-first century standards that are equally inappropriate.”  Rogers and McKim said, “To erect a standard of modern, technical precision in language as the hallmark of biblical authority was totally foreign to the foundation shared by the early church” (Rogers and McKim, The Authority and Intepretation of the Bible An Historical Approach, p. xxii).  Blomberg also supports elements of speech-act theory also maintains that “Vanhoozer’s work is indeed very attractive, but it is scarcely at odds with the Chicago Statement.”[67]    One wonders at this statement of Blomberg, since Van Hoozer denies the grammatico-historical approach, and as Geisler/Roach conclude, “[Van Hoozer] also claims to affirm much of the ICBI statement as he understands it.  But that is precisely the problem since the way he understands it is not the way the framers meant it, as is demonstrated from the official commentaries on the ICBI statements.”[68]

The practical result is genre can be used to deny anything in the bible that the interpreter finds offensive as a literal sense.  The allegorical school did such a thing; the Gnostics did it to Scripture, and now Blomberg applies his updated version of it with genre being applied to hermeneutics.  Blomberg’s use of genre, to this present review, smacks of an eerie similarity to Rogers’/McKim’s deprecation of literal interpretation when they noted Westerner’s logic that viewed “statements in the Bible were treated like logical propositions that could be interpreted quite literally according to contemporary standards” (Rogers and McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, xviii).  In Chapter 5, Aren’t Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorial,” his use of hermeneutics continues to be the means by which he can redefine what normal definition of inerrancy would be, and he uses it to deny the plain, normal sense of Genesis 1-3 (p. 150),[69] while advocating that we must understand the author’s intent in such passages, with the key question from Article 13 of ICBI, “standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  Applying a completely wrong understanding of this clause of ICBI as well as the original intent of the founders of ICBI, Blomberg advocates that idea that “the question is simply one about the most likely literary form of the passage.”[70]  From there, he proceeds to allow for non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that are, in his view, fully in line with inerrancy, e.g. Adam and Eve as symbols for every man and woman,[71] evolutionary and progressive creation,[72] a non-historical Jonah,[73] the possibility of three Isaiah’s (p. 162),[74] Daniel as Apocalyptic genre rather than prophetic,[75] fully embracing of midrash interpretation of the Gospels (non-literal) as advocated by Robert Gundry as not impacting inerrancy[76] as well as pseudepigraphy as fully in line with inerrancy in NT epistles under the guide of a “literary device” or “acceptable form of pseudonymity.[77]  He argues that we don’t know the opinions of the first century church well-enough on pseudepigraphy to rule it out: “[B]arring some future discovery related to first-century opinions, we cannot pontificate on what kinds of claims for authorship would or would not have been considered acceptable in Christian communities, and especially in Jewish-Christian circles when the New Testament Epistles were written.  As a result, we must evaluate every proposal based on its own historical and grammatical merits, not on whether it does or does not pass some pre-established criterion of what inerrancy can accept.”[78]

The response of other critical evangelical scholars to Blomberg’s book has been warm and embracing.  In a “blog tour for Blomberg’s book, critical evangelical scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary, Darrell Bock warmly embraces Chapter 4 (“Don’t These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy”) that is currently under discussion in this article:

Craig Blomberg’s fourth chapter in Can We Still Believe the Bible, examines some objections to inerrancy from both the right and the left. Yes, there is a position to the right of holding to inerrancy. It is holding it in a way that is slow to recognize solutions that fit within the view by undervaluing the complexities of interpretation. People are far more familiar with those who challenge inspiration and doubt what Scripture declares on the left, but others attempt to build a fence around the Bible by being slow to see where legitimate discussion exists about how inerrancy is affirmed. To make the Bible do too much can be a problem, just as making it do too little.[79]

President of the Evangelical Theological Society for 2013-2104, Robert W. Yarborough also praised Blomberg’s book in his Presidential Address in the following glowing terms, placing it at the top of his list of new books,

Excellent recent books demonstrate the cogency and vitality of a reverent and indeed an inerrantist stance. Two such books were made available to me in pre-publication form for this address.

Craig Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible?  The first is by Craig Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.  Blomberg takes up six issues that he finds foundational to an affirmation of the Bible’s comprehensive credibility like that affirmed by this society. In each of these categories, Blomberg cites the literature of those who reject a high view of the Bible’s veracity or authenticity. As he points out, those critical of the Bible’s truth do not return the favor, stonewalling evangelical arguments and publications as if that class of scholarship did not even exist. Blomberg calls attention to the best studies he can find that reject his viewpoint. He then argues for the position from his inerrantist standpoint. He notes, “Not a single supposed contra- diction” in Scripture “has gone without someone proposing a reasonably plausible resolution.”  He also notes the irony that some are abandoning inerrancy today when “inerrantists have the ability to define and nuance their understanding of the doctrine better than ever before.” This book is refreshing and important not only because of its breadth of coverage of issues, viewpoints, and literature. It is evenhanded in that both enemies of inerrancy and wrong-headed friends are called on the carpet. Blomberg revisits incidents like Robert Gundry’s dismissal from this society and the kerfuffle over a decade ago surrounding the TNIV and inclusive language. He does not mince words in criticizing those he sees as overzealous for the inerrancy cause. Nor is he bashful in calling out former inerrantists who, Blomberg finds, often make their polemical arguments against what they used to believe with less than compelling warrant. I predict that everyone who reads the book will disagree strongly with the author about something. At the same time, the positive arguments for inerrancy are even more substantial. It is clear that Blomberg is not content with poking holes in non-inerrantist arguments. He writes, “I do not think one has to settle for anything short of full-fledged inerrantist Christianity so long as we ensure that we employ all parts of a detailed exposition of inerrancy, such as that found in the Chicago Statement.”

Or again: “These Scriptures are trustworthy. We can still believe the Bible. We should still believe the Bible and act accordingly, by following Jesus in discipleship.” I am skimming some of his concluding statements, but the real meat of the book is inductive demonstration of inerrancy’s plausibility based on primary evidence and scholarship surrounding that evidence. If only a book of this substance had been available when I was a college or grad school student![80]

One is left wondering what view of inerrancy not only Blomberg affirms, but also what form Bock and Yarborough affirm since they so warmly embrace Yarborough’s book. Clearly ICBIs view of inerrancy does not appear to be what they affirm when they make such comments.  Perhaps a better title for this Baker book should be Can We Still Believe Evangelical Critical Scholars?  Why?  Critical evangelical scholars, like Blomberg, say that they believe in inerrancy, but Blomberg’s book leave much doubt as to whether they really do believe it the way the church has traditionally maintained that doctrine throughout the millennia.  Indeed, the present review challenges all to re-read Rogers’ and McKim’s work (1979), as well as Rogers, Biblical Authority (1977) to discover startling parallels in many thoughts between their position and that of critical evangelical scholars like Blomberg today.  It is painfully obvious in this book that Paul’s warning of not to be taken captive by philosophy has been totally overlooked, ignored and disregarded by Blomberg (Col. 2:8–See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.) as well as Paul’s warning to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5—“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”


The Good News: Walton and Sandy Say They Believe in “Inerrancy”     

The present writer has extensively reviewed John D. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture previously.[81]  The writers state that their “specific objective is to understand better how both the Old and New Testaments were spoken, written and passed on, especially with an eye to possible implications for the Bible’s inspiration and authority.”[82] (p. 9).  They add, “part of the purpose of this book is to bring students back from the brink of turning away from the authority of Scripture in reaction to the misappropriation of the term inerrancy” (p. 9).

They assert that as Wheaton University professors, they work “at an institution and with a faculty that take a strong stand on inerrancy but that are open to dialogue” and that this openness “provided a safe context in which to explore the authority of Scripture from the ground up.”[83] John Walton wrote the chapters on the Old Testament while D. Brent Sandy wrote the chapters on the New Testament.  W/S have written this book especially for “Christian students in colleges, seminaries and universities” with the hopes that they will find their work “useful,” as well as writing for “colleagues who have a high view of Scripture, especially for those who hold to inerrancy.”[84] The book is also “not intended for outsiders; that is, it’s not an apologetic defense of biblical authority.  Rather, “we’re writing for insiders, seeking to clarify how best to understand the Bible.”[85]  The writers also assure the readers that they have a “very high view of Scripture; “[w]e affirm inerrancy” and that they “are in agreement with the definition suggested by David Dockery that the ‘Bible properly interpreted in light of [the] culture and communication developed by the time of its composition will be shown to be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation” (David S. Dockery, Christian Scripture; An Evangelical Perspective on Inspiration, Authority and Interpretation (Nashville: B & H, 1994, p. 64).

The Bad News:  Walton’s and Sandy’s View of Inerrancy is Really Errancy.

The central thrust of the book is that the world of the Bible (both Old and New Testament) is quite different from modern times: “Most of us a probably unprepared . . . for how different the ancient world is from our own . . . We’re thousands of years and thousands of miles removed.  It means we frequently need to put the brakes on and ask whether we’re reading the Bible in light of the original culture or in light of contemporary culture. While the Bible’s values were very different from ancient cultures’, it obviously communicated in the existing languages and within cultural customs of the day.”[86] (p. 13).  Such a recognition and the “evidence assembled in this book inevitably leads to the question of inerrancy.” (p. 13). [T]he truth of the matter is, no term, or even combination of terms, can completely represent the fullness of Scripture’s authority” (p. 13). W/S then quote the Short Statement of the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy of 1978 (p. 14). This creates the impression that they are in agreement with the statement.  However, this is deceptive because book constitutes an essential challenge to much of what the Chicago Statements asserted.  This uneasiness with the Chicago Statement can also be seen in those who are listed as endorsers of the work, Tremper Longmann III who chairs the Robert H. Gundry professor of Biblical Studies, as well as Michael R. Licona who recently, in his The Resurrection of Jesus, used genre criticism to negate the resurrection of the saints in Jerusalem in Matthew 27:51-53 at Jesus crucifixion as apocalyptic genre rather than indicating a literal resurrection, and Craig Evans, Acadia Divinity College, who is not known for his support of the Chicago Statements.

The book consists of 21 propositions that seek to nuance biblical authority, interpretation and an understanding of inerrancy, with the essential thought of these propositions flowing basically from 2 areas: (1) their first proposition, “Ancient Near Eastern Societies were hearing dominant (italics added) and had nothing comparable to authors and books as we know them” [in modern times since the printing press] while modern societies today are “text dominant[87] and (2) speech-act theory that they frequently refer to in their work (pp. 41-46, 48, 51, 200, 213-218, 229, 288).  They qualify their latter acceptance of speech-act theory:

We do not agree with many of the conclusions with speech act theory, but we find its foundational premise and terminology helpful and have adopted its three basic categories. The communicator uses locutions (words, sentences, rhetorical structures, genres) to embody an illocution (the intention to do something with those locutions—bless, promise, instruct, assert) with a perlocution that anticipates a certain response from the audience (obedience trust, belief) (p. 41).

They go on to assert that God accommodated his communication in the Scripture: “[a]ccomodation on the part of the divine communicator resides primarily in the locution, in which the genre and rhetorical devices are included.” (p. 42).  And,

[G]enre is largely a part of the locution, not the illocution.  Like grammar, syntax and lexemes, genre is a mechanism to convey an illocution.  Accomodation takes place primarily at the louctionary level. Inerrancy and authority related to the illocution; accommodation and genre attach at the locution.  Therefore, inerrancy and authority cannot be undermined, compromised or jeopardized by genre or accommodation.  While genre labels may be misleading, genre itself cannot be true or false, errant or inerrant, authoritative or nonauthoritative. Certain genres lend themselves to more factual detail and others more toward fictional imagination.” (p. 45).

While admittedly the book’s propositions entail many other ideas, from these two ideas, an oral dominated society in ancient times of the OT and NT vs. a written/text dominant society of modern times and the implications of speech-act theory cited above, flow all that W/S develop in their assertions to nuance their take on what a proper view of inerrancy and biblical authority should be.  The obvious implication of these assertions is that Robert Gundry, who was removed from ETS due to his dehistoricizing in 1983, was wronged because value judgments about genre do not impact the doctrine of inerrancy.  Gundry was perfectly in the confines of inerrancy to dehistoricize because, according to W/S, it was ETS that misunderstood the concept of inerrancy as not genre driven.  It is the illocution (purpose or intent), not the wording that drives inerrancy.  Gundry’s theorizing of a midrashic genre, according to this idea, had nothing at all to do with inerrancy.  Gundry believed sincerely in inerrancy but realized the midrashic, not historical, nature of Matthew 2.

Walton’s and Sandy’s work are reminiscent of Rogers and McKim, in their now famous, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (1979), An Historical Approach, who made a similar error in their approach to Scripture.  They also spoke of “the central Christian tradition included the concept of accommodation;” that today witnesses a “scholastic overreaction to biblical criticism;” “the function and purpose of the Bible was to bring people into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ”; “the Bible was not used as an encyclopedia  of information on all subjects;” and “to erect a standard of modern, technical precision in language as the hallmark of biblical authority was totally foreign to the foundation shared by the early church.” (R/M, xxii).  W/S similarly assert in their implications of an oral society that “The Bible contains no new revelation about the material workings and understanding of the Material World” (Proposition 4, pp.49-59) so that the

 Bible’s “explicit statements about the material world are part of the locution and would naturally accommodate the beliefs of the ancient world.  As such they are not vested with authority.  We cannot encumber with scriptural authority any scientific conclusions we might deduce from the biblical text about the material world, its history or its regular processes.  This means that we cannot draw any scientific conclusions about such areas as physiology, meteorology, astronomy, cosmic geography, genetics or geology from the Bible.  For example, we should believe that God created the universe, but we should not expect to be able to derive from the biblical texts the methods that he used or the time that it took. We should believe that God created humans in his image and that through the choices they made sin and death came into the world.  Scientific conclusions, however, relating to the material processes of human origins (whether from biology in general or genetics in particular) may be outside the purview of the Bible.  We need to ask whether the Bible is making those sort of claims in its illocutions” (p. 55).

They continue,

The Bible’s claims regarding origins, mechanics or shape of the world are, by definition of the focus of its revelation, mechanics or shape of the world are, by definition of the focus of its revelation in the theological realm. (p. 55).

According to W/S, what the Bible says plainly in the words of Genesis 1 may not be what it intends.  Immediate special creation cannot be read into the text; rather the door is open for evolution and the acceptance of modern understandings of science.  Thus, Genesis 1 and 2 may well indicate God’s creation but not the means of how he created, even when the locutions say “evening and morning”; “first day” etc.  Much of what is in Genesis 1 reflects “Old World Science”: “one could easily infer from the statements in the biblical text that the sun and moon share space with the birds (Gen. 1).  But this is simply a reflection of Old World Science, and we attach no authority to that conclusion. Rather we consider it a matter of deduction on the part of the ancients who made no reason to know better.” (p. 57).  For them, “[t]he Bible’s authority is bound into theological claims and entailments about the material world. For them, since the Bible is not a science textbook, its “authority is not found in the locution but has to come through illocution” (p. 54).  Genesis 1-2, under their system, does not rule out evolution; nor does it signify creation literally in six “days.”  Such conclusions press the text far beyond its purpose to indicate God’s creation of the world but not the how of the processes involved.  They conclude, “we have proposed that reticence to identify scientific claims or entailments is the logical conclusion from the first two points (not a science textbook; no new scientific revelation) and that a proper understanding of biblical authority is dependent on recognizing this to be true” (p. 59).  They assert that “it’s safe to believe that Old World Science permeates the Old Testament” and “Old World Science is simply part of the locution [words, etc.] and as such is not vested with authority” (p. 300).

Apparently, W/S believe that modern science has a better track record at origins.  This assumption is rather laughable.  Many “laws” of science for one generation are overturned in other generations.  Scientific understanding is in constant flux.  Both of these authors have failed to understand that modern science is predominated overwhelmingly by materialistic philosophies rather than presenting any evidence of objectivity in the area of origins.  Since Science is based on observation, testing, measurement and repeatability, ideas of origins are beyond the purview of modern science too.  For instance, the fossil record indicates the death of animals, but how that death occurred and what the implications of that fossil record are, delves more into philosophy and agendas rather than good science.  Since no transitional forms exist between species in the fossil record, evolution should be rendered tenuous as an explanation, but science refuses to rule it out due to a dogmatic a priori.

While W/S quote the ICBI “short statement” their work actually is an assault on the articles of affirmation and denial 9f the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.  In article IX, it noted that “We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the biblical authors were moved to speak and write” and Article XII, “we deny that biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of the fields of history and science.  We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”  Article XI related, “far from misleading us; it is true and reliable in all matters in addresses.”

Another area that is troubling is in their theorizing of text-canonical updating.  W/S adoption of multiple unknown redactor/editors who updated the text over long periods of time in terms of geography, history, names, etc. actually constitutes an argument, not for inerrancy, but for deficiency in the text of Scripture and hence an argument for errancy, not inerrancy.  Due to the OT being an oral or ear dominated society, W/S also propose a text-canonical updating hypothesis: “the model we propose agrees with traditional criticism in that it understands the final literary form of the biblical books to be relatively late and generally not the literary product of the authority figure whose words the book preserves (p. 66).  This while Moses, Isaiah, and other prominent figures were behind the book, perhaps multiple, unknown editors were involved in any updating and final form of the books in the OT/NT that we have.  For them, in the whole process of Scripture, “[t]he Holy Spirit is behind the whole process from beginning to end” in spite of the involvement of unknown hands in their final development (p. 66). W/S negate the central idea of inerrancy that would center around original autographs that were inerrant, or that such autographs even existed: “Within evangelical circles discussing inerrancy and authority, the common affirmation is that the text is inerrant in the original autographs . . . since all copies were pristine, inerrancy could only be connected with the putative originals (“p. 66).  Modern discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has made it “clear that there was not only one original form of the final literary piece” of such books as Samuel and Jeremiah (p. 67).  Which version is original cannot be determined.  Under W/S it does not make any difference because “in the model that we have proposed here, it does not matter.  The authority is associated with Jeremiah, no matter which compilation is used.  We cannot be dependent on the ‘original autographs,’ not only because we do not have them, but also because the very concept is anachronistic for most of the Old Testament” (p. 67).  For W/S, “inerrancy and authority are connected initially to the figure or the authoritative traditions.  We further accept the authority represented in the form of the book adopted by faith communities and given canonical status” (p. 67).  “Inerrancy and authority attach to the final canonical form of the book rather than to putative original autographs” (p. 68).  Later on in their work, W/S assert that “inerrancy would then pertain to the role of the authorities (i.e. the role of Moses or Isaiah as dominant, determinative and principle voice), not to so-called authors writing so-called books—but the literature in its entirety would be considered authoritative” (p. 281).  For them, “[a]uthority is not dependent on the original autographs or an author writing a book.  Recognition of authority is identifiable in the beliefs of a community of faith (of whom we are heirs) that God’s communications through authoritative figures and traditions have been captured and preserved through a long process of transmission and composition” (p. 68).  For them, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch “does not decide the matter” regarding its authority, for many may have been involved in the final form of the first five books of Moses (p. 69).  The final form involved perhaps many unknown editors and updaters: “Our interest is in the identity of the prophet as the authority figure behind the oracles, regardless of the composition history of the book” (p. 72).  Thus, while Moses, Jeremiah, for instance, were the originator of the tradition or document and names are associated with the books, this approach of many involved in the product/final form of the book and variations, “allows us to adopt some of the more important advances that critical scholarship has offered” (p. 74).  For them, unknown editors over long periods of time would have updated the text in many ways as time passed.  They argue “it is safe to believe that some later material could be added and later editors could have a role in the compositional history of a canonical book” (p. 299).  Their positing of such a scheme, however, is suggestive that the text had been corrected, updated, revised all which smacks of a case for errancy more than inerrancy in the process.

Again, orthodox views of inerrancy, like the 1978 Chicago Statement, were not so negative about determining the autographs as article X related, “We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographs of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy.”

W/S also assert that “exacting detail and precise wording were not necessary to preserve and transmit the truths of Scripture” (p. 181) because they were an “ear” related culture rather than a print related culture (Proposition 13).

In reply to W/S, while this may be true that the New Testament was oral, such a statement needs qualification by W/S in their propositions throughout.  No matter what the extent of orality in the OT and NT as posed by W/S, the reportage in these passages is accurate though it may not be, at times precise.  While they are correct that  “exacting detail and precise wording were not necessary to preserve and transmit the truths of Scripture,  two competing views need to be contrasted in that oral reportage that was written down in the text of Scripture: an orthodox view and an unorthodox view of that reportage.  This important distinction is lost in W/S’s discussion (see Norman L. Geisler, “Evangelicals and Redaction Criticism, Dancing on the Edge” [1987] for a full discussion):

CHANGE THEIR FORM (Grammatical Change) CHANGE THEIR CONTENT (Theological Change)

Article XIII of the 1978 Chicago Statement was careful to note that inerrancy does not demand precision at all times in reportage.  Any criticism of the Chicago Statements in this area is ill-advised, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reportage of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations. W/S’s caveat on harmonization needs qualification: “it is not necessary to explain away the differences by some means of harmonization in order to it fit modern standards of accuracy” (p. 151).  While anyone may note many examples of trite harmonization, this does not negate the legitimacy or need for harmonization.  Tatian’s Diatessaron (c. 160-175) is a testimony to the ancient church believing that the Gospels could be harmonized since they were a product of the Holy Spirit.  From the ancient Christian church through to the time of the Reformation, the church always believed in the legitimacy and usefulness of harmonization.  It was not until modern philosophical presuppositions (e.g., Rationalism, Deism, Romanticism, etc.) that created the historical-critical ideology arose that discredited harmonization. The orthodox position of the church was that the Gospels were without error and could be harmonized into a unified whole.  The rise of modern critical methods (i.e. historical criticism) with its accompanying low or no views of inspiration discredited harmonization, not bad examples of harmonization. For harmonization during the time of the Reformation, see Harvey K. McArthur, “Sixteenth Century Gospel Harmonies,” in The Quest Through the Centuries: The Search for the Historical Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress,1966) 85 -101).

On page 274, W/S assert “[o]ur intention is to strengthen the doctrine of biblical authority through a realistic application of knowledge of the ancient world, and to understand what inerrancy can do and what it can’t do.”  They believe that the term inerrancy is a term that “is reaching its limits” and also that “the convictions it sought to express and preserve remain important” (p. 274).  “Inerrancy” is no longer the clear, defining term it once was and that “has become diminished in rhetorical power and specificity, it no longer serves as adequately to define our convictions about the robust authority of Scripture” (p. 275). They cite several errors of inerrancy advocates in the past.  Most notably are the following: inerrancy advocates, “have at times misunderstood ‘historical’ texts by applying modern genre criteria to ancient literature, thus treating it as having claims that it never intended.”  Apparently, this position allows W/S to read the findings of modern “scientism” into the ancient text that often conflicts with today’s hypothesis of origins (i.e. creation).  “They have at times confused locution [words, sentences, rhetorical structures, genres] and illocution [the intention to do something with those locutions—bless, promise, instruct, assert”].  Inerrancy technically applies on to the latter, though of course, without locutions, there would be no illocution.” W/S here confuse inerrancy with interpretation and understanding of a text with this supposition.  Each word is inspired but the understanding or interpretation of those words may not be considered “inerrant” but a process of interpretation of those words in the context in which those words occur.  If Genesis 1 says “evening and morning” and “first,” “second” day, it is tenuous to imply that these terms are so flexible in interpretation to allow for long periods of time to accommodate evolutionary hypotheses.  “They have been too anxious to declare sections of the Old Testament to be historical in a modern sense, where it may not be making those claims for itself.”  Here, this principle allows W/S to negate any part of the Old Testament that does not accord with modern sensibilities.  It creates a large opening to read into the text rather than allow the text to speak for itself.  They assert that positions such as “young earth or premillennialism may be defensible interpretations, but they cannot invoke inerrancy as a claim to truth” (p. 282).  For W/S, “the Israelites shared the general cognitive environment of the ancient world . . . . At the illocutionary level, we may say that traditions in the early chapters of Genesis, for example, served the Israelites by offering an account of God and his ways and conveying their deepest beliefs about how the world works, who they are and how it all began.  These are the same questions addressed by the mythological traditions of the ancient world, but the answers given are very different” (p. 303-304).

One other area where the elasticity of W/S’s concept of history centers in that they allow for the hyperbolic use of numbers in the Old Testament: “It is safe to believe that the Bible can use numbers rhetorically with the range of the conventions of the ancient world” (p. 302).  For them, “w]e may conclude that they are exaggerated, or even that contradictory amounts are given in sources that report the same event” (p. 302).  These may well be inaccuracies or contradictions according to our conventions, but that doesn’t meant that they jeapordize inerrancy.  Again, numerical quantity is locution.  Authority ties to the illocution and what the narrator is doing with those numbers” (p. 302).  Whatever he is doing, he is doing wit the accepted conventions of their world” (p. 302).

Finally, W/S argue that “our doctrine of authority of Scripture has become too enmeshed in apologetics . . . . If we tie apologetics and theology too tightly together, the result could be that we end up trying to defend as theology what are really just apologetic claims we have made” (p. 306).

Finally, W/S contend: “ill-formed versions of inerrancy have misled many people into false understandings of the nature of Scripture, which has led to poor hermeneutics for interpreting Scripture and to misunderstandings of Bible translations.  Even more serious, certain views of inerrancy have led people away from the Christian faith.  Such views can also keep people from considering more important matters in Scripture.  If there is a stumbling block to people coming to the faith, should it not be Christ alone rather than a wall that we inadvertently place in the way of spiritual pilgrimages?” (p. 308).  This reviewer has one reply to the illogic of W/S.  If the documents are cannot be trusted in their plain, normal sense (e.g. creation), then how can their testimony about Christ be trusted?  If the documents have as much flexibility as hypothesized by W/S, how can they be trusted to give a reliable, accurate and faithful witness to Him?  While W/S have wrapped their work in an alleged improvement of current concepts of inerrancy and its implications, they have actually presented a system that is (1) quite inferior to that of the ICBI statements of 1978 and 1982 and (2) one that really is designed to undermine the years of evangelical history that went into the formulation of those documents against the onslaught of historical-critical ideologies that W/S now embrace.  They treat that history and reasons of the formulation of ICBI statements in a dismissive fashion that is perilous for those who do not remember the events of the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes as evidenced in this work of W/S.  A better title for this book would have been “The Lost World of Inerrancy” since W/S’s system undermines the very concept.  One is left wondering what form of “inerrancy” is really advocated by Walton and Sandy.  It is not any stretch to say that their view really masquerades “errancy” in the form of “inerrancy.”


The present writer could multiply the examples of critical evangelical scholars who “say” that they believe in “inerrancy.”  However, their practice and assertions in biblical interpretation really support unorthodox errantist views.  The present writer has reviewed the following additional works and invites the reader to examine his reviews of these works, for all of the following scholars assert a belief in inerrancy, but their works actually affirm errancy:

(1) Christopher M. Hays and Christopher B. Ansberry, Evangelical Faith and The Challenge of Historical Criticism.  London: SPCK, 2013 cf.  F. David Farnell, “A Review of” in MSJ 25.1 (Spring 2014), 107- 113.  Sadly, Ansberry is a Master’s College graduate who should have known better through his training.

(2) James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, Eds. Do Historical Matters Matter To Faith?, A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Post Modern Approaches to Scripture. James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary, Eds. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012 cf. F. David Farnell, “A Review of” in MSJ 24.2 (Fall 2013) 149-157.  Sadly, this work constitutes a MASSIVE ASSAULT ON ORTHODOX INERRANCY.

  Evangelicals are in very deep difficulty at the beginning of the 21st Century.  Many critical evangelical scholars say that they believe in “inerrancy,” while their views assault tradition views of inerrancy.  Importantly, from this point in evangelical history, when someone says that they believe in inerrancy, one must now ask, “what do you mean by the term ‘inerrancy’ since the orthodox definition of inerrancy has now been hijacked and changed.

[1] (accessed on 4/22/2014).

[2] (accessed on 4/22/2014).

[3] For example, see S. Westerholm, “Pharisees,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.  Eds. Joel N. Green and Scot McKnight (Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity, 1992), 613.

[4] D. A. Hagner, “Pharisees,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia  of the Bible.  Gen. Ed. Merill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975): 4:750.

[5] R. J. Wyatt, “Pharisees,” NISBE. Ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986): 3:823.

[6] Donald A. Hanger, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus (Eugene,OR: Wipf and Stock, 1997), 71; see also 92-94.

[7] See F. David Farnell, “The Problem of Philosophy in New Testament Studies,” and Searching for the Historical Jesus: The Rise of the Searches,” The Rise of the Three Searches,” in The Jesus Quest.  Eds. Norman L. Geisler and F. David Farnell (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2014), 86-142; 361-420.

[8] See Norman L. Geisler, “The Philosophical Roots of Modern Biblical Criticism, The Jesus Quest The Danger From Within.  Eds. Norman L. Geisler and F. David Farnell (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2014) 65-85.

[9] See F. David Farnell, “Historical Criticism vs. Grammatico-Historical Criticism: Quo Vadis Evangelicals?,” The Jesus Quest, 503-520.

[10] See Robert L. Thomas, “Current Hermeneutical Trends: Toward Explanation or Obfuscation?, JETS 39 (June 1996): 241-256.

[11] Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), 55.

[12] Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1974), 25.

[13] The list of 9–13 as well as page numbers cited are from Robert Gundry, Matthew A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) as well as A Commentary on His Handbook for A Mixed Church under Persecution (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).  The latter note: an updated version of the 1982 commentary.

[14]Blomberg, “A Constructive Traditional Response to New Testament Criticism,” 354 fn. 32

[15] Craig L. Blomberg, “New Testament miracles and Higher Criticism: Climbing Up the Slippery Slope,” JETS 27/4 (December 1984) 436.

[16] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2010).

[17] Ibid., 34.

[18] Ibid., 548.

[19] Ibid., 552.

[20] Ibid., 553.

[21] See F. David Farnell, “Philosophical and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism,” The Jesus Crisis, 85-131.

[22] Or, Advocate. Or, Comforter. Gr., hoparakletos, masc.

[23] For examples of this dangerous drift among evangelicals, see F. David Farnell, “Part Four: Beware of ‘Critical’ Post-Modern History,” in The Jesus Quest The Danger from Within, Eds. Norman L. Geisler and F. David Farnell (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2014), 359-520.  See also F. David Farnell, “Can We Still Trust Critical Evangelical Scholars,” (accessed on May 4, 2014).

[24] F. David Farnell, “Those Who Do Not Learn From the Lessons of History,” accessed on 8/29/2014) and “Can We Still Trust Critical Evangelical Scholars” ( accessed on 8/29/2014).

[25] ICBI Catalogue, International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1983; R. C. Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy (Orlando, FL: Ligonier, 1996 [1980 International Council on Biblical Inerrancy].

[26] Sproule, 54.

[27] Sproule, Explaining Inerrancy, 54.

[28] For instance, Craig Blomberg advocates a combining of historical-criticism and the grammatico-historical in while other evangelicals like Bock

[29] J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1936) 65.

[30] I. Howard Marshall, “Historical Criticism,” in New Testament Interpretation.  Ed. I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) , p. 126.

[31]Marshall, “Historical Criticism,” p. 126.

[32] See I. Howard Marshall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (2004), 84.

[33] Craig L. Blomberg, “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View,” in Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012): 27-47.

[34] Blomberg, “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View,” 46-47.

[35] Craig L. Blomberg, “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View,” in Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012): 27-47.

[36] Blomberg, “The Historical-Critical/Grammatical View,” 28.

[37] Ibid.,” 47.

[38] For Griesbach and his association with Neologians as well as its impact on his synoptic “solution,” see F. David Farnell, “How Views of Inspiration Have Impacted Synoptic Problem Discussion,” TMSJ 13/1 (Spring 2002) 33-64.

[39] William The History of New Testament Research: From deism to Tübingen (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1992) 116.

[40] See Accessed on 5/25/2013.

[41] [italics added—not in original].  See Darrell L. Bock, Studying the Historical Jesus A Guide to Sources and Methods (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 139.

[42] Darrell L. Bock, Form Criticism, in New Testament Criticism and Interpretation.  Eds. David Alan Black and David S. Dockery (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 192.

[43]F. David Farnell, “Form and Tradition Criticism,” The Jesus Crisis, 185-232.

[44] Graham H. Stanton, Presuppositions in New Testament Criticism,” in New Testament Interpretation, 60.

[45] Peter Davids– “Authority, Hermeneutics and Criticism,” in New Testament Criticism and Interpretation. Eds. Black and Dockery (1993), pp. 31-32.

[46] Donald Hagner, “The New Testament, History, and the Historical Critical Method, in New Testament Criticism and Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 86, 88.

[47] For a more extensive review of this work, see F. David Farnell, “Review of Craig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe The Bible? An Evangelical Engagement With Contemporary Questions.”  MSJ 25.1 (Spring 2014) 99-104.

[48] Craig Blomberg

[49] Jack B. Rogers and Donald K. McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible, An Historical Approach (New York et al: Harper & Row, 1979), xxiii.

[50] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe?, p. 10.

[51] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe?, p. 10-11.

[52] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 11.

[53] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe?, p. 11.

[54] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 11.

[55] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 119.

[56] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 119.

[57] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 119.

[58] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 120.

[59] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 120-21.

[60] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 121.

[61]Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 121.

[62] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 121.

[63] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 125.

[64] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 126.

[65] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 126.

[66] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 128.

[67] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 136.  The reader is referred here to Geisler/Roach evaluation of Van Hoozer for a different perspective, “Kevin Vanhoozer on Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy Defended (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011) p. 132-159.

[68] Geisler and Roach, Defending Inerrancy, 159.

[69] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 150.

[70]Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 150.

[71] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 152.

[72] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 151-153.

[73]Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 160.

[74] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 128.

[75] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 163-164.

[76]Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 165-168.

[77] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 168-172.

[78] Blomberg, Can We Still Believe, p. 172.

[79] accessed on October 7, 2014;  See also Bock’s Blog, accessed on October 7, 2014.

[80] Robert Gundry – Defending Inerrancy, (accessed October 28, 2015).

[81] F. David Farnell, “A review of John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy.  The Lost World of Scripture, Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013,” MSJ 25.1 (Spring 2014), 121-129.

[82] John H. and D. Brent Sandy.  The Lost World of Scripture, Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013), p. 9.

[83] Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, p. 10.

[84] Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, p. 10.

[85]Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, p. 9..

[86] Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, p. 9

[87] Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture, (italics added) (p. 19, see also pp. 17-28).