Featured Reviews, VOLUME 8

Craig Blomberg – Can We Still Believe the Bible? [Feature Review]

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The recent proliferation of Bible translations (especially in English) and the attending debates over their particular philosophies of translation have left many people wondering whether any translations can be trusted. In chapter three, Blomberg explains the main philosophies of translation as well as why all the major, nonsectarian Bible translations are sufficiently reliable for faith and practice. Following a brief, but helpful history of translations, he describes the three major philosophies of translation: a) formal equivalence, which prioritizes meaning above clarity, b) dynamic or functional equivalence, which prioritizes clarity above meaning, and c) optimal equivalence, which focuses on maximizing both meaning and clarity (94). According to Blomberg’s taxonomy, the NASB, ESV, and NRSV are products of formal equivalence, the NLT, CEV, and GNB are products of dynamic or functional equivalence, and the NAB, NET, HCSB, CEB, and NIV are products of optimal equivalence (94). In what was one of the most interesting sections of this chapter, he provides an insider’s perspective on the controversies surrounding the use of gender-inclusive language for humanity in the TNIV as well as on the revisions that went into the updated NIV 2011.


In chapter four, Blomberg defines and defends the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. He begins by describing two distinct approaches to reasoning that the Bible is without error: 1) “The inductive approach begins with the phenomena of the Bible itself, defines what would count as an error, analyzes Scripture carefully from beginning to end, and determines that nothing has been discovered that would qualify as errant” and 2) “The deductive approach begins with the conviction that God is the author of Scripture, proceeds to the premise that by definition God cannot err, and therefore concludes that God’s Word must be without error” (121). Since Blomberg never defines what would count as an error, it seems safe to conclude that he favors some kind of deductive approach, which “ultimately views inerrancy as a corollary of inspiration, not as something to be demonstrated from the texts of Scripture itself” (123). He then presents, explains, and considers objections to Paul Feinberg’s definition of inerrancy: “Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences” (123). The main objection to inerrancy, according to Blomberg, reduces to the debate over what constitutes an error and the fact that people living in the contemporary, scientifically-oriented world “frequently impose modern standards of accuracy on ancient texts in hopelessly anachronistic fashion” (126). This complication may presumably be avoided if one adheres to the deductive approach. Of course, it might also be circumvented by using the language of infallibility. It is curious that Blomberg readily dismisses the notion of infallibility as an unhelpful terminological distinction by observing that “the meaning of ‘infallible’ is simply ‘unable to deceive,’ without any distinction between various kinds or topics of deception,” since the obvious upshot of the term “infallible” is that it does not connote technical, scientific precision in the same way as “without error” seemingly does (131).


On the heels of his discussion of inerrancy, Blomberg digs into what it means to apply that doctrine in relation to the literary genres of the biblical books. Consequently, the content of chapter five coalesces around this contention: “The truth claims of the Bible, appropriately cherished by inerrantists, can never be determined apart from our best assessment of the literary forms and genres involved” (177-178). More specifically, the argument is that the standard evangelical grammatical-historical hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture might reveal good reasons why some texts should not be read as straightforward ancient history writing and that taking them completely historically actually misconstrues their meaning (148). In other words, this chapter offers an extended reflection on “what it means to say that nonhistorical genres are wholly truthful” (128). In addition to the opening passages of Genesis, Blomberg considers several other thought-provoking, engaging examples from both testaments.


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  1. Ironically, a literal insistence on “inerrancy” leads in the direction of questioning, rather than embracing, central biblical truths! After all, the biblical books were all written before the Enlightenment and historical criticism!
    I loved Blomberg’s arguments about the 27 canonical NT books, all traced to the first century, and the non-canonical all written later, including the Gospel of Thomas.

  2. I haven’t read the book but I love the quote from Oden in this review.