Inerrancy Is Not a New Idea, Just Ask Irenaeus

Irenaeus based the fidelity of the apostolic writings upon the absolute truthfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ and the conviction that truth and falsehood are polar opposites

Haykin argues that this framework was the foundation for Irenaeus’s dispute with Gnostics and others over the truthfulness and sufficiency of Scripture. As Haykin notes via Norbert Brox: “[In] Irenaeus this principle stands at the beginning [of his thought]: that the Bible is in every respect perfect and sufficient.”

 

Okay, okay. I do need to preface with this:

Irenaeus (ca. 130/140-ca. 200) never used the term “inerrancy.” It’s probably not even fair to call him an “inerrantist.” The word, and many nuances of it, are of recent descent and are influenced by modern debates over the truthfulness of Scripture, especially in relationship to textual and scientific criticism. So the difference is substantial in detail, but the spirit of the idea is clearly there.

That said, the point here is this: the idea that Scripture is without error isn’t something fundamentalists cooked up in a lab a century ago. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, lays out a very explicit inerrancy-like view of Scripture when battling the Gnostics who taught the errancy of Scripture. In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, Michael A. G. Haykin’s essay explains Irenaeus’s view via engagement with several primary texts (pp. 135-147):

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