I had a good chat with a long time scholar friend who bristled at the term inerrancy. He does believe in the authority of the Bible, but argued that we should avoid the term inerrancy since we don't have the original manuscripts of the Bible.
But nonetheless, the Bible is authoritative, he assured me.
The problem with this line of argumentation is that it fails to understand that the text is something which is non-physical. The Word of God is "immaterial" and is merely reflected (more or less) in the various manuscripts of the New Testament, depending on the accuracy of the scribe and exemplars. We reconstruct the inerrant Word of God as best we can based upon these material witnesses. The physical manifestation of the text (i.e., the manuscripts) are patently not inerrant--they have errors in them; yet the ultimate reality of God's Word behind the physical manuscripts is perfect.
My friend would not accept this argument of mine, insisting that it is impractical to argue for the perfection of something which has no physicality. So I asked him what is it then that he thinks is "authoritative." He replied, "The Word of God." But I replied, "Do you mean the physical manuscripts, or the real text behind the physical manifestation of the text reflected in the manuscripts?"
This stumped him. Ultimately, if you can't have an inerrant text without the original manuscripts, neither can you have an authoritative text without the original manuscripts.
Of course, for myself, I have no problems with saying that the real text behind that which is physically manifested in the manuscripts is inerrant, and the fact that we don't have the original manuscripts doesn't impact this perception.
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