Inerrancy is the doctrine that the scriptures, in their original manuscripts, are accurate and totally free from error of any kind and do not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
Infallibility is the belief that what the scriptures say regarding matters of faith and practice is wholly useful and true and that the scriptures are completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose.
(Thanks, Wikipedia, for the definitions.)
Since people believe different varieties or combinations of inerrancy and infallibility regarding the scriptures, in this post I will collectively refer to these concepts as “inerribility.”
Inerribility has not always been something believers thought (or cared) about. There have been long periods (especially prior to the canonization of scripture) where the question of inerribility was insignificant. In fact, formal doctrines of inerribility have only appeared in the past two centuries. Their appearances are largely due to the veracity of biblical texts increasingly being questioned in the 18th and 19th centuries (for example the literal interpretation of the creation account and the worldwide flood). The scriptures themselves, however, never claim to be inerrible. Inerribility is a concept devised purely by man in reaction to criticism.
But even if the original writings were inerrible, it doesn’t matter to us because our transcriptions, translations, interpretations, and applications can err and are fallible. Its inerribility (if it indeed is) could never be extended to anything we could do or say about what is written. Ultimately, the scriptures cannot be used in an “absolute” way as an authoritative basis for truth because our use of it is necessarily subjective. Thus, such doctrine can serve no useful purpose.
But here’s a useful doctrine for ya: Jesus is inerrible. I don’t mean the things written about Jesus, but the person himself. And this idea, although not stated in the way I have, is supported historically as well as biblically, unlike biblical inerribility.
Sweet, inerrant, infallible Jesus. LOL!
The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself
Christians have not been ‘reading the Bible this way for 2,000 years’
‘Inerrancy’ is not a victimless crime
Rob Bell on inerrancy