What is meant by a "perfect" Bible?

Continuing the discussion from Introducing Chad from Middle Ground:

What is meant by “The Bible is perfect”? I find myself teaching on this topic at least a few times per year because people have different ideas about the meaning of a “perfect Bible.” The Psalmist said that “Thy word is perfect.” What was the Psalmist’s intended meaning?

If the Bible is perfect, is my NIV Bible perfect? My NKJV Bible? In Jesus day the standard Bible for many was the Septuagint (in Greek) while others depended upon the TANAKH (in Hebrew.) The Septuagint and the TANAKH differed markedly both in the underlying manuscript readings represented and in their meanings for some passages. (And they still differ today, obviously.) During the first century would both Bibles have been “perfect”?

The 1611 KJV Bible translation was an outstanding work of scholarship for its time. Nevertheless, we can probably all point to what are certainly “imperfections,” some of them quite glaring.

So what do people mean when they speak of the Bible being “perfect”?


Same as anybody who understands and agrees with the Chicago Statement. It means it is perfect in the original autographs.

Is that what the Psalmist meant?

And considering that no original autographs of the Bible exist, what are the implications for understanding the word “perfect” when applied to the Bible today (in hundreds of languages and translations?)

For those readers who may not be familiar with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, links to the individual statements of the three ICBI conferences appear in the “External Links” section of the Wikipedia article at Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy - Wikipedia


@deuteroKJ, considering how you liked hearing John Sailhamer stories, Norm Geisler hired me as an assistant to the Drafting Committee of the third of the three International Council on Biblical Inerrancy conferences (December of 1986.) I didn’t want to be tied down for hours and hours doing the transcription and editing of the statement deliberations, so I asked John Sailhamer to help. He made an outstanding amanuensis and so that certainly made me look good in the process. We were both “the younger guys” to that group (as J.I.Packer put it) and ICBI had a very generous budget. So it paid quite well. Yet, it was mostly just plain fascinating and fun working with Norman “Stormin’ Norman” Geisler, Earl Radmacher, Robert Preus, Stan Gundry, and James Boice—especially at meal time when the discussions were less structured. (I don’t think J.I. Packer stayed beyond the first session. Can’t remember for sure.) I just remember John being what seemed uncharacteristically quiet at dinner and telling me as an aside, “This is a place where I really don’t want to rock the boat.” (Also, not a lot of people knew that John was an army veteran from the Vietnam era and after dinner on one of those evenings was the only time I ever recalling him talking all that much about his military experiences.)

Anyway, I think back on my memories of John Sailhamer whenever someone mentions the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.


Wow, do you see this candid statement over in @thoughtful 's thread?! Powerful. Now there is an off the cuff and salient response to your question about a perfect Bible!

Can she prove it? Probably not, but who cares! When a statement that powerful comes directly from the heart of a purist - one who fears God and upholds the Scripture as originally delivered - there really is no refutation that can overcome it. Why? Because a statement like this takes on the form of Christians being “living letters” as Paul described. My point? Well, to me a living letter since it is spiritually motivated and spiritually discerned, falls just shy of inspiration.


We certainly have a huge problem with Ezra vs. Nehemiah! Readers may recall how many differences there are in dozens of statistics… If the one about singers (below) is not convincing, there are certainly plenty more to look at. For now, the singers:

In Ezra 2:65 it is said that there were 200 singers.

In Nehemiah 7:67 it is said that there were 245 singers.

So which is it? Maybe they are BOTH wrong?

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Yeah, I believe it is.

What do you think the implications are?

That terms like “perfect” and “Bible inerrancy” may be far more complicated than what some people assume.

What does that mean?

It means that when people talk about the Bible being “perfect” and “inerrant”, we would do well to make sure that we understand their definitions of those words. Otherwise, misunderstandings may arise.

Or they may be sublimely simple. I think it would be ‘higher learning’ that might possibly poison that simplicity in the end.

Thanks for pointing out how two inspired writers differently handled the numbering of a 200+ choir. Since both were inspired of God, now we know for sure that the story is correct.

But we also know something else now. Of the three - Ezra, Nehemiah, and you - we now know the one who was really wrong.

But are both the Ezra and Nehemiah readings perfect, @r_speir?

If yes, how are you defining “perfect”?

[I’m going to be in and out for the rest of the evening because I’m teaching some Zoom-based classes.]

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So are you implying that the reason evangelical scholars like Geisler, Boyce, Packer, Montgomery, Radmacher et al needed many hours of careful deliberation and debate in producing the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy—and considered their work quite complicated—was because their “higher learning” had poisoned them? (I was there in the room. Believe me, it was complicated. Nothing “sublimely simple” about it.)

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Perfect means straight from the heart of God to Man. In Genesis 1 and 2 perfect means two eye-witnesses to the Creation event giving two slightly different versions to seat it authentically in history and the hearts of believers.

In the Gospels perfect means 4 eyewitnesses giving 4 personal and slightly differing accounts - all inspired of God - and intending to seat Jesus’s ministry solidly in history and seat faith solidly in the hearts of believers

In Eza and Nehemiah’s accounts of the choir, their two eyewitness accounts - being slightly different - tells us that God wanted to firmly establish and authenticate the event in history and to firmly establish it in the hearts of those who would read it and believe in him.

One heavenly definition of “Perfect” that everyone - especially Bible revisionists - complete miss is that when God gives two or more accounts of something “he makes sure that the inspiration comes through two or more eyewitnesses who may give slightly varying accounts of the events in question.”

Wow, what a perfect plan to firmly establish and authenticate his Word!

How do you know that the differences aren’t text transmission issues?

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What are your thoughts on the definition of Biblical inerrancy from the Lausanne Congress?


You know this is oversimplification, @r_speir. Several of the credited authors were not eyewitnesses at all.


Good question, Curtis. And as to:

I’ve known a number of scholars who agreed with the Chicago Statement and yet had differing definitions of inerrancy! (I sat quietly in the faculty lounge while some of those debates were going on. Sometimes it’s wise to just listen and learn.)

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I don’t know that and if we really want to niggle about things, neither do you!

How do you know they are not exactly what I described instead?