Does the claim of inerrancy extend to the accredited titles of biblical works?
If you have spent any time in a university setting, especially taking an Old Testament survey course, you have probably heard the argument made that, especially regarding the Pentateuch, the Torah, the books credited to Moses, that they were not written by Moses, but were actually separate documents that were assembled, edited, and probably brought to their final form sometime before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586/587BC under the reign of King Josiah.
If you have not heard this argument, then you are probably shocked by it. What is truly shocking is the false conclusion that flows from it: namely that if it is true, then the Bible isn’t inerrant and therefore any moral and ethical claims it makes can simply be dismissed.
But, let’s put on our thinking caps. What evidence, if any, do these scholars present to support such an assertion to justify their conclusion?
Most often, they will point to passages where the main character in the overall presentation isn’t present, or what appear to be anachronisms, and draw their argument from there.
However, there are certain facts that are either ignored or overlooked in formulating the argument, such as:
1. The time over which the document was written.
Why is this important? It is an important fact to consider because these documents themselves record events and make commentary (an important fact in itself) on those events after they occurred. Hebrew history is interesting because, unlike the history of other nations or peoples, it comments on the events drawing meaning and application from them. These documents sometimes run parallel to each other. For instance, there are events that are described in both Exodus and Numbers that seem to present conflicting views. Now, if we tear them apart from one another, we could hold them in contradiction to one another. However, if we place them side by side, we see companion parts where both have elements that are necessary to understand the whole.
2. The nature of the method of transmission and the freedom afforded to it.
There is a fact of history that we simply need to accept: the photocopier was not invented until 1949. Until that point, writing and publishing works were incredibly labor intensive and were subject to the entrance of simple errors. Until the invention of the printing press, copies of documents were made by hand, which is even more prone to mistakes. But, in a culture where documents are used regularly, where the landscape might be changed by war or disaster, there were issues that could cause a change in the landscape and the transcriptionists of Scripture possibly took this fact into account when making copies and if they encountered the name of a location that had changed because of these factors, for the sake of later readers, they would update the names because they realized that the generations after them, might not know the place by that old name. These people were truly forward thinkers.
3. A failure to appreciate the form, substance, and preservation of the presentation.
Yes, I said it, it is simple ingratitude. If God has indeed spoken in time, has interacted with his Creatures and has exerted effort by his Spirit to preserve it in those means, we should be exceedingly grateful and dedicated to learning what God has to say about himself in his revelation. But man displays his rebellious nature and his desire to suppress the knowledge of God in his rebellion, even going so far to draw false conclusions from unsubstantiated premises because it is easier to descend into utter absurdity and nonsense than to believe the truth.
The take away is that we need to actually think about what is being said, thinking logically and rationally and considering the arguments being made to see if the conclusion follows from them.
The claim of inerrancy has as much to do with how the text was produced in time as how it has arrived in our hands. It is all tied together. So what if Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch? That has nothing to do with what is contained in them.