The Attack on Biblical Inspiration
April. 20, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger

The authority of the Bible is foundational to everything in the Christian life and ministry, and there is a great and relentless attack upon the infallible inspiration of Scripture in our day. God’s people need to settle this matter in their own hearts and be able to give an answer to those who cast doubt upon Scripture.

The individual, home, or church that gives even an inch to those who are casting doubt upon the Bible’s plenary (full), verbal inspiration are in great spiritual danger. They are playing right into the hands of that enemy whose first words to mankind were, “Yea, hath God said?” They have taken the first step toward shipwreck.

The Attack upon Biblical Inspiration

The Word of God has been assaulted from the very beginning of man’s history until now. The attack began with Satan’s lies to Eve (Ge. 3:1-5). 

Following are recent examples of the attack upon God’s Word:

Modernism or theological rationalism began in the 1800s in Germany and quickly spread to England and America and throughout the world. It was the application of the theory of evolution to the Bible. According to this view, the Bible was not given by God; it simply evolved as man’s thinking about God evolved. Thus, the Bible is filled with errors and myths. They denied miracles such as the judgments on Egypt, crossing Red Sea, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah, and the virgin birth. 

I do not consider any man sound in the faith who questions even a jot or tittle of the infallible inspiration of Scripture. Such men--e.g., Erwin Nestle, Eugene Nida, Eugene Peterson, Bruce Metzger, J.B. Phillips, and C.S. Lewis--are frequently quoted by “evangelicals” today. We refuse to follow this example. We don’t want any reader to think that such men are sound and possibly be influenced by them.

Modernists have especially attacked the first five books of the Bible. If the historicity and divine inspiration of the Pentateuch is questionable, the rest of the Bible automatically falls. 

The JEDP Theory

The attack began with the first five books of the Bible.

The Bible teaches that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible under divine inspiration (De. 31:9). See also Ex. 24:4; Nu. 33:2. Jesus called the Pentateuch “the law of Moses” (Lu. 24:44). Jesus quoted from every part of the Pentateuch and said Moses wrote it. He quoted Leviticus 13 (Mt. 8:4), Deuteronomy 24 (Mt. 19:7-8; Mr. 10:3-6), Exodus 20:12 and 21:17 (Mr. 7:10), and Numbers 21:7-9 (Joh. 3:14). 

But theological liberals invented a theory that the Pentateuch was written by an unknown group of men over a long period of time. “This view believes that the Pentateuch represents the conflation of four different sources rather than the work of primarily one author” (Theopedia). It is called the JEDP theory after the names of the supposed documents -- J (Jahwist or Jehovahist), E (Elohist), P (Priestly), D (Deuteronomy). It is called the Documentary Theory, because it claims that the Pentateuch was pieced together from various documents. 

This theory was taught by Julius Wellhausen in his 1878 German work Prolegomena to the History of Israel. The view appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on “Israel” in 1881 and began to spread among English-speaking people.

Parts of the Pentateuch were supposedly written in the early part of Israel’s kingdom in the 10th century BC, other parts in the 8th century BC. The book of Deuteronomy was supposedly written in the 7th century BC by Jewish leaders during the reign of King Josiah. Finally, according to this theory, the Pentateuch was edited together in the 5th century BC, possibly by Ezra, to instruct Israel in the Babylonian Captivity and to unify them as a people.

According to the JEDP theory, the Pentateuch is a “pious fraud,” because the unknown men who wrote it allegedly had good intentions, even though what they were writing was not true. They wrote it, we are told, to teach Israel about God and to support revival efforts. But the book of Exodus claims that Moses wrote it (Ex. 17:4; 24:4; 34:27-28), and if he did not write it, the book is a blatant lie.

The JEDP theory has undergone continual modification as its various fundamental points have been disproved and as new theories have been proposed. The one original JEDP theory has been gradually replaced by a bewildering number of competing theories.

Regardless of what particular theory they hold, most theologians today believe that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (or primarily by Moses) in the 15th century BC under divine inspiration, but that it was written by multiple authors over a long period of time and edited into its final form in the time of the Persian Empire.

An example of the modernistic approach to the Old Testament is found in a commentary by CHARLES F. KRAFT (Genesis: Beginnings of the Biblical Drama, The Methodist Church, 1964).

“Clearly, then, the Book of Genesis is a remarkable combination of ancient folklore, tradition, custom, myth” (Charles Kraft, Genesis, pp. 11, 12).

“... it [the Genesis creation account] is the sublime statement of religious faith hammered out over the centuries of Israel's history” (Kraft, Genesis, p. 27). 

“Above all, it is of the utmost importance that we see in the story not merely primeval history about the first man and the first woman which our current knowledge of geology, anthropology, and biology will not allow us to accept. ... not primarily two individuals, Adam and Eve, but, as their names imply, ‘the man’ and ‘the woman,’ that is, every man and every woman” (Kraft, Genesis, p. 54). 

The account of Genesis does not contradict any proven fact of science. To the contrary, it fits every established “fact.” Genesis one, for example, says God created the animals and plants to reproduce “after their kind.” That is precisely what we observe in the world. The genetic barriers between the species is a specific fact.

Kraft questions the historicity of Adam and Eve, claiming the biblical account is probably a religious myth that depicts general truths of some sort. Adam and Eve are mentioned 35 times in 12 books of the Bible (Ge. 2-5; De. 32:8; 1 Ch. 1:1; Job 31:33; Mt. 19:4-6; Mr. 10:6-7; Lu. 3:38; Ro. 5:12, 14; 1 Co. 15:22, 45; 2 Co. 11:3; 1 Ti. 2:13-14; Jude 1:14). Luke 3:38 says that Jesus came from Adam. If there was no Adam, the entire Bible is a lie. 

Charles Kraft is only one of thousands and thousands of biblical scholars who deny the infallibility of Holy Scripture. 

Liberalism has spread into evangelicalism

Beginning in the 1940s, there was a widespread rejection of the Bible’s teaching on separation from error. New Evangelicals represented a new generation of old-time fundamentalists. They did not like separation and contending for the faith and other “negative” aspects of old-time Christianity. They wanted a positive Christianity. As a result of the breakdown of separation, the corruption of liberalism has spread everywhere.

Harold Ockenga, a prominent evangelical leader, stated the position of New Evangelicalism: 

"Neo-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of Fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for A REPUDIATION OF SEPARATISM and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many Evangelicals. It differed from Fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its DETERMINATION TO ENGAGE ITSELF IN THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE OF THE DAY. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life” (Ockenga, foreword to Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible).

The New Evangelical leaven spread rapidly. New Evangelical philosophy was adopted by such well-known Christian leaders as Billy Graham, Bill Bright, John R.W. Stott, Luis Palau, Leighton Ford, Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels, Warren Wiersbe, Chuck Colson, Charles Swindoll, and a host of others. New Evangelicalism was popularized through pleasant personalities and broadcast through powerful print, radio, and television media. Christianity Today was founded in 1956 to voice the new philosophy. Through publishing houses such as InterVarsity Press, Zondervan, Tyndale House Publishers, Moody Press, and Thomas Nelson--to name a few--New Evangelical philosophy was broadcast across the world. New Evangelicalism became the working principle of organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals, National Religious Broadcasters, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, World Vision, Operation Mobilization, the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association, etc. It was spread through prominent educational institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell, BIOLA, and Moody Bible Institute. Countless conferences have been organized to promote New Evangelicalism. Two of the largest and most influential were Amsterdam ‘83 and Amsterdam ‘86 which were sponsored by Billy Graham Ministries and were attended by thousands of preachers from across the world.

In 1984, Francis Schaeffer published The Great Evangelical Disaster. The book’s title describes the thesis. The cover jacket says, “In this explosive new book Dr. Francis Schaeffer exposes the rise of compromise and accommodation, and the tragic consequences of this, within the evangelical church.” The issue that Schaeffer called “the watershed of evangelicalism” is the inspiration and authority of the Bible. He testified, “Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, p. 44).  

Consider an example of the theological modernism that has permeated evangelicalism: 

Bruce Metzger, who is frequently cited as an “evangelical” scholar, was one of the most renowned textual critics of the 20th century. Metzger was one of the editors of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament. Consider some examples of how Metzger cast doubt on the Bible’s divine inspiration:

He called the Pentateuch “a matrix of myth, legend, and history” and says it “took shape over a long period of time” (Introduction to the Old Testament, New Oxford Annotated Bible).

He called the flood of Noah’s day “a heightened version of local inundations, e.g. in the Tigris-Euphrates basin” (Metzger and May, New Oxford Annotated Bible).

He called the book of Job an “ancient folktale” (Metzger and May, New Oxford Annotated Bible).

He said Isaiah was written by two or more men. “Only chs. 1-39 can be assigned to Isaiah’s time; it is generally accepted that chs. 40-66 come from the time of Cyrus of Persia (539 B.C.) and later.”

He said Daniel was written after the events he described and was not divine prophecy. “Most scholars hold that [Daniel] was compiled during the persecutions (168-165 B.C.) of the Jewish people by Antiochus Epiphanes” (Reader’s Digest Condensed Bible, edited by Bruce Metzger). 

He called the book of Jonah a “popular legend” (Metzger and May, New Oxford Annotated Bible).

Today’s evangelicals are polluted with the theological modernism from which they have refused to separate. A little leaven has indeed leavened the whole lump. Being “thoroughly evangelical” is no evidence that an individual accepts the Bible as the infallible Word of God.

For more about the downgrade of doctrine and practice among “evangelicals,” see New Evangelicalism: Its History, Characteristics, and Fruit.

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