Fitzmyer on Inerrancy and Inspiration

A couple months ago, I wrote a post concerning the relationship between authority and inspiration. I chose not to deal with the question of inerrancy in that post, mostly because I felt it would require more patience and space than I had at the time. I’m currently working my way through Joseph Fitzmyer’s The Interpretation of Scripture, and I have found his discussion of inspiration and inerrancy to be quite relevant to this discussion.

In his discussion of Dei Verbum, Vatican II’s constitution on divine revelation, Fitzmyer refers to inspiration as the charism by which human beings were moved by God to record aspects of divine revelation. He defines revelation as the self-manifestation of a personal God and the making known of the mystery of God’s will for humanity (8). Inspiration, therefore, is expressive of the belief that the biblical authors wrote from their experiences of a God who worked among them.

The question of inerrancy, however, is of a different sort than that of inspiration. For Fitzmyer, the two concepts are not coterminous, but they are related, as inerrancy is for him a consequence of inspiration. Inerrancy, he writes (citing Dei Verbum §11), refers to the quality of assertions in Scripture which pertain to salvation. It cannot (and should not) be applied to every statement made as if it were historically true, and this protects the exegete from what Fitzmyer calls “crass fundamentalism” (8).




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