Patristic Testimony Regarding The Inerrancy Of Scripture

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As far as the inerrancy issue being an issue in church history, Origen held to the authority of Scripture,

we have drawn from the authority of Scripture (First Principles 2.5.3)


 the Scriptures themselves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God. (First Principles 4.1.1)

Again Origen speaks of the Scriptures as inspired and Divine, and calls them the “language of God.”

I think that this position also has been made good, viz., that the Scriptures themselves, which contained these predictions, were divinely inspired, – those, namely, which had either foretold His advent, or the power of His doctrine, or the bringing over of all nations (to His obedience). To which this remark must be added, that the divinity and inspiration both of the predictions of the prophets and of the law of Moses have been clearly revealed and confirmed, especially since the advent of Christ into the world. For before the fulfillment of those events which were predicted by them, they could not, although true and inspired by God, be shown to be so, because they were as yet unfulfilled. But the coming of Christ was a declaration that their statements were true and divinely inspired, although it was certainly doubtful before that whether there would be an accomplishment of those things which had been foretold. If any one, moreover, consider the words of the prophets with all the zeal and reverence which they deserve, it is certain that, in the perusal and careful examination thus given them, he will feel his mind and senses touched by a divine breath, and will acknowledge that the words which he reads were no human utterances, but the language of God; and from his own emotions he will feel that these books were the composition of no human skill, nor of any mortal eloquence, but, so to speak, of a style that is divine.
(First Principles 4.1.6)

While Origen was far from perfect, and far from correct on some things, we cannot deny that he viewed Scripture as being Divine in origin, and thus the Word of God.

Augustin said,

I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honor only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the Ms. is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of in truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason.
(Letters 82.1.3)

When Augustin found a difficulty in Scripture he decided that the issue was the manuscript, the translator, or himself; but the Scripture itself did not err. In fact, he declared that for him to think the Scripture to be errant was to place himself above the authors of Scripture in sanctity and learning. Such humility is certainly what we need today when we come to the Scriptures.

We also read,

The statements, however, of holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth.
(Tertullian, A Treatise on The Soul, chp 21)

Once more we find,

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us took; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.
(Hippolytus, Against Noetus, 9)

Note that Hippolytus says that we can gain the knowledge of God from no other source than Scripture. He then calls Scripture the “oracles of God.”

Then there is Irenaeus,

the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit; but we, inasmuch as we are inferior to, and later in existence than, the Word of God and His Spirit, are on that very account destitute of the knowledge of His mysteries. And there is no cause for wonder if this is the case with us as respects things spiritual and heavenly, and such as require to be made known to us by revelation, since many even of those things which lie at our very feet (I mean such as belong to this world, which we handle, and see, and are in close contact with) transcend out knowledge, so that even these we must leave to God. For it is fitting that He should excel all [in knowledge].
(Heresies, 2.28.2)


Suffice it to say that the view of the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God is consistent with the view of several of the church fathers, even heretics such as Origen.

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~ Originally posted at Pastoral Musings

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