Inerrant in Form

  1. The Bible is inerrant (as per statements constantly and consistently issued by the Ordinary Magisterium)
  2. If the Bible is Inerrant, then that quality extends either to all the content in form, or all the content in matter and form.
  3. The quality does not extend to the matter.
  4. Therefore the quality of inerrancy extends to the content in form.

Let us say that the precise wording of the passages of scripture as they appeared in the original autographs is the matter of the Bible, and let us define the form as ‘that which the author(s) intended to communicate’ (i.e., the formal cause of the substance qua matter and form). Of course, I believe that both the human and divine author could not have willed to communicate anything incompatible, and I also believe that there is nothing the human author could intend to communicate which the divine author did not.

Here is a problem: given the polyvalent nature of the Scriptures (given the anagogical and tropological senses, etc.) the Scriptures may still intend, by the ambiguity of the languages in use (Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek), to convey various possible readings in such a way that each reading derived from a close examination of the very order of the words in use may communicate the content in form.

Consider as just one example something recently brought to my attention about Genesis 22. In the Hebrew תּחת can be translated as either ‘instead of’ or ‘underneath’, and is the word used when Genesis 22:13 says that Abraham offered the ram תּחת his son. Notice as well that Genesis 22:19 says that Abraham came down the mountain, but it does not mention Isaac being with him any longer. This ambiguity led many Rabbinic authorities who contributed to the Talmud to register the interpretation that Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, and Isaac spent three years in heaven studying Torah before he returned. Now, such a reading is obviously not the literal sense of the passage (not least because Torah wasn’t written yet), but perhaps it is an anagogical sense (referring to Christ). If Rabbinic authorities see/saw such readings as legitimate precisely because of the ambiguity of the Hebrew words in use, perhaps that ambiguity was intended by the human author, or at least by the divine author, to carry with it the form of revelation.

This would seem to mean that inerrancy properly belongs to the matter and form of the Scriptures, since even in the very order and ambiguity of the words in use (matter) God could have intended to communicate something (form), and thus the matter and form are inseparable.

Perhaps against this we could argue that the form, even of such ambiguities which arose in the text of the original autographs, is not lost by scribal errors or the corruption of the matter (exact wording of the autographs) over time precisely because the form is inherited and kept directly and principally in sacred tradition (manuductio). However, in order for the fullness of the form to be preserved in sacred tradition regardless of what might occur to the matter of the Bible, one would need, it seems, some kind of magisterium (teacher) of that tradition which itself is ‘led into all truth’ and which is protected from teaching error concerning the content of that revelation. If this is the case, then it seems that if inerrancy is true (presuming everything we know about the evolution of the text, the difficulties associated with reconstructing the original autographs, etc), then Catholicism seems to be true (at least, in the absence of a defeater for Catholicism, if we believe in inerrancy we ought to think that our belief weighs in favor of Catholicism). That, or perhaps somebody could maintain inerrancy in reference to the original autographs, but deny that the Scriptures are inerrant today (but that’s unsatisfying, and means that people in an earlier age had surer access to the fullness of Revelation than we do absent a Mater et Magistra – which itself, ironically, would lead one to conclude that if inerrancy is not true then Catholicism is likely to be true).

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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2 Responses to Inerrant in Form

  1. mcamiso says:

    I love your article..very thought provoking.

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