Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture

Discussion in 'Theology and Doctrine' started by Rexlion, Jun 16, 2020.

  1. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    Does this mean there are some parts of Scripture that are repugnant to others and we are meant to keep quiet about it? Or, if the church doth so expound, it is wrong because, to say so is wrong (per sae ), or is it wrong because the articles say no part of scripture is repugnant to any other?
     
  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Not the point. The Church is duty bound not to expound one part of scripture in a way that is repugnant to another. This is particularly relevant for example in discussing James where it might be thought to be giving a priority to works which is repugnant to the Pauline concept of being justified by Grace through faith.
     
  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The problem, in todays world, of the more unsophisticated or extreme notions of biblical 'inerrancy' and 'infallibility' is actually the stultifying effect that it's most avid adherents have upon the effectiveness of The Gospel message scripture is supposed to convey. In fact the effect of avid inerrancy proponents is in direct contradiction to your second point for the following reasons:

    There has been, since the enlightenment, a profound shift in the general world view of ourselves and those we wish to evangelise with the truth of the good news of The Gospel.

    The scientific method of obtaining truth has become the norm to such an extent in the developed part of the world that any attempt to present The Gospel in the context of pre-enlightenment cosmological assumptions is doomed to fail.

    Such general assumptions concerning the very nature of reality have caused society to exclude 'outmoded' world view concepts entirely from conversation.

    Late 20th and early 21st century society has assigned angels, demons and the devil to the realm of myth and fictitious dramatic effect. Try opening up a conversation on them sometime. You will find that you will bring all talk to a halt in no time, in shocked embarrassment. You will find yourself promptly appraised for signs of pathological violence then quickly shunned. A materialist society such as the one we now live in, simply has no ability or desire to engage in outmoded thought forms so you will find yourself cast outside of their impregnable fortress of assumed intellectual superiority.

    Angels, spirits, principalities, gods, Satan - miracles these, along with all other spiritual realities have become the unmentionables of our culture. The dominant materialistic world view has absolutely no place for them. These, so termed, archaic relics of a superstitious past are unspeakable because modern secularism simply has no categories, no vocabulary, no presuppositions by which to discern what it was in the actual experience of people that brought these words to speech. You will find massive resistance from your audience to even thinking about these phenomena, reinforced by your insistence that the documents you are relying upon for your information come from The Bible and are therefore, you assert, inerrant.

    Although I understand your aversion to the more extreme forms of 'liberal. modern interpretation', lumping as you seem to do, all non traditional approaches to understanding the interpretation the church has for centuries imposed upon certain scriptural statements, I have to disagree with your assertion that interpretations of scripture enlightened by modern scientific understanding must necessarily be defective interpretation. It may well be some of the unenlightened assumptions of previous ages that were wrong. Young Earthers, Flat Earthers, anti-scientifics and some of the more avid 'scripture inerrantists' seem to perpetuate their own unique form of 'doing harm to the cause of Christianity'.

    (My profound sympathy goes to the German monk in the early fourteenth century who first discovered that light refracted and reflected inside water droplets. He was incarcerated by his order for the rest of his life for daring to suggest rainbows were a natural, reproducible phenomenon and not only restricted to divine intervention. Galileo also was a martyr to ignorant but enthusiastic inerrantist ecclesiastics.)
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  4. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    I accept the potential disaster latent in this method. But let us remember that if it's not Craig Evans interpreting the Bible, then it's Rexlion, or Phoenix, or S. Augustine, or Justin Martyr, or Pope Francis. The key inescapable fact is that it will always be people, someone, somewhere, who interpret the Scripture.

    The history of the Church's relationship with Scripture is the history of various ways in which the Church has sought to interpret Scripture.
    -Take the Roman Church, where Pope Francis (and only he) will tell you what the deposit of faith actually means. The dangers of that progressivism are obvious to anyone.
    -Take the Evangelical church, where Craig Evans (and a million others) will tell you what the deposit of faith actually means. The dangers of that progressivism are equally obvious.

    Then consider the Anglican method, which I take to forbid interpretation to any living man, be he a layman or an archbishop. Instead, they chain the interpretation of the Scriptures to the Church Fathers ("the first five centuries"). That method allows some human being to interpret the Scriptures, but forbids that person to be anyone living today. By this method, therefore, there is no scandal in stating that the Bible is inspired but not inerrant, because it's not we who will pick and choose the parts which are historically accurate, but rather Augustine and Clement, and Jerome, we being just the passive vessels for their conclusions.


    I would love to explore this concept further, in case it forms a viable alternative to what I've outlined. How does inerrancy not demand a literal interpretation to every passage?

    Is the statement "the wind has wings" errant or inerrant, in your framework?
     
  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    You're contending that we should toss "inerrancy" out the window because some who subscribe to inerrancy also have beliefs or practices which are incorrect (in your example, they talk too much about angels and demons! Oh how awful! Move over while I swoon!). :laugh: That is 'throwing the baby out with the bath.' We contend that the Bible is the word of God, but so do the Mormons; by such logic, we should abandon our contention that the Bible is God's word because some cult teaches the same thing. Do you see the flaw in the logic? What "some proponents" also believe or do, does not impact the correctness or incorrectness of inerrancy. We must not paint with so broad a brush.

    Galileo was not a martyr to inerrantists, he was a martyr to an evil religious empire headed by people who wouldn't have recognized a sound Bible interpretation if it bit them on the rear; the Bible actually refers to the earth as circular, and the entire flat earth argument has been thoroughly debunked; see for example: https://www.revelation.co/2009/06/19/does-the-bible-say-earth-is-flat-or-round/ . But your example does help me see why some folks have the idea that literalness equates to inerrancy. I will concede that some people erroneously conclude and believe that a literal interpretation is always right even when it flies in the face of good sense and proper hermeneutics. Yet just because some poorly-informed people also hold to (or even abuse) inerrancy should not doom the good concept of inerrancy.

    People, please stop looking at inerrancy as some bogey-man! Please stop throwing 'guilt by association' upon it! Look at the definition which the Chicago group came up with. There was a good reason for my use of it. This definition is what inerrancy really is and should be, what some of the best thinkers in the evangelical world put their heads together and came up with; inerrancy is not defined as "every verse must be taken literally" or "the earth must be flat." These are the distorted thoughts placed into your minds by hearing lies told about inerrancy!

    The devil has devised a lie in these latter days; the lie is that inerrancy is a modern invention. But even though the actual word 'inerrancy' was unknown to the early church, the concept existed and was employed. I have given quotes from early fathers which demonstrates the high regard they had for the word of God; in it they found no lies, no attempts to deceive the reader, and no fatal factual misstatements. This is the very definition of inerrancy.

    When a council was convened to declare the Canon of Scripture, they evaluated books upon several criteria. One of those criteria was, is this book accepted by the churches? And the reason certain books were not universally accepted by the churches was because they contained blatant historical or geographical errors or they contained theological untruths. Thus the apocrypha and some other books were not included in our Canon. Well, guess what, folks.... those books were rejected, at least in part, because they were errant! As in, not "inerrant"! They were deceptive or they contained false information. The books in our Bible do not contain deceptions, untruths, or errors. It's "perfect" (said Ireneaus). It's inerrant.

    Even though you don't have to believe the Bible is inerrant in order to be saved or Anglican or any of that, you shouldn't believe the Bible to be errant, should you? Nor should you reject its inerrancy simply because you've developed a bad case of word association!
     
  6. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The problem I see with this approach is that it has always been the church that has interpreted the meaning of scripture, and it should still be the church, (not just saints long since in heaven), but the whole church, including the church militant here on earth today interpreting it's meaning for us today through the medium of The Holy Spirit.

    The assumption, (for that is what it is), that there were people in former times who 'got it right' and that there is no longer any new truth to be obtained from scripture, just has to be erroneous.

    It would assume that Christ had no expectation that his disciples down through the ages could learn any new truth after He had left earth, but scripture proves that his expectation was not only that they would learn new truth but that Christ Himself would be leading them into it through The ministration of the Holy Spirit which Christ promised he would send to us, His Church, for precisely that purpose and that Christ promised would remain with each and all of us until His return.

    I am quite confident that God knows fully well who, in his Son's Church, understands what the Holy Spirit teaches them, be they male, female, child or adult. Whatever our forefathers in Christ's Church gained insight into is of value to us, but I feel I must take issue with you when you suggest that we must, as Anglicans restrict our understanding of the meaning of the scriptures only to what the Church Fathers discovered in their own age. If that were true there could have been no Reformation. In John Wycliffe's day the church knew and studied practically nothing of scripture other than what the early Church Fathers taught. It did not serve the Church well then and it wouldn't do now.

    Many of the issues the early Church Fathers struggled with are long since become almost irrelevant to the age in which we now live. That is not to say many of the foundational truths that they established in their ages and that we as Christ's Church today inherit from them in our own age, are precious and eternally relevant. WE though, as the Church of Jesus Christ, in our own age, cannot relinquish the responsibility to discover biblical truth for ourselves to meet the needs of the church and the world it serves through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    We are not just the guardians of a repository of ancient knowledge, with no right or ability to add to it. We are the Church to which Christ promised The Holy Spirit, who will lead us into all truth.

    One way the Church could lose the dynamic of the Holy Spirit and therefore its 'salt', would be to lock itself into the past along with the Church Fathers and an antiqated world view.

    But another, equally dangerous way to go wrong and lose its way, would be to ignore the teachings of the Church Fathers and "heap to themselves teachers, bringing in damnable heresies, having itching ears,".

    Wisdom and discernment are called for when interpreting inspired literature.
    .
     
  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    "The wind has wings" is inerrant. Why? Because its context within the book, as well as the natural knowledge of every man, both show us that the passige is not meant to be taken as an indication of literal feathery appendages on an incorporeal breeze.
    It is a mistake? No, it is poetic and metaphorical. Obviously!

    Granted, one is not required to believe the Bible to be free of deception and deceit.
    One is not required to believe the Bible to be so inspired by God as to have been kept free of mistakes.
    But why wouldn't we believe these things?
    And look, those are the definition of "inerrant!"

    What do we mean by "mistakes"? We mean, for example, if the writer said that Egypt is east of Samaria. Or that Jesus traveled to Capernaum when in fact He walked to Bethlehem. Or that God the Father essentially is a physical being (rather than Spirit). In other words, things that would imply that "God got it wrong" when He inspired the writers, or that He let them write errors contrary to what He wants to say to us in His written word. Nothing God had written for our sake is a mistake. This was the sort of view Jesus had of the O.T. when He said that not one jot or tittle would pass away from the law, and that scripture cannot be broken.

    By "mistakes" we do not mean things like, David made love to Bathsheba and had her husband killed, or there's some question about what exactly happened when Judas died, or Job said some things that weren't right. Those don't reflect on God or on the quality of His message, but on fallible men.

    Why would we adopt a much lower standard for the Bible than Jesus held for the Old Testament? If we believe the New Testament is Canon Scripture and the word of God, are we not obliged to believe that it is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and can stand forever (1 Peter 1:25; Isaiah 40:8)? These words of God set a much higher standard than "inerrant," don't they? Why do we stumble over the lower standard, when instead it should be a given?
     
  8. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    You've got hold of the mucky end of the stick, yet again Rexlion.

    My point was not that I find talk about spiritual entities difficult. I in fact am willing to talk at length about such concepts and phenomena. It is the world at large that has a problem with conversation as soon as the subject comes up. Have you never noticed how 'normal' people's eyes glaze over as soon as you talk to them about spiritual realities, thus indicating to them that, to you, they are 'real' experiences?

    I'm sure you have experienced something of that in evangelistic ministry, haven't you? Their glazing problem is not you. It is their materialistic world view.

    And it's only the dirty bath water that should be disposed of, not the whole bath. :laugh:

    "Compare 2 Sam.24:1 with 1 Chron.21:1. Who told David to number Israel, God or Satan?"

    Which of these two statements then would you say is 'inerrant'?

    That Satan made David do a census of Israel : or that God made David do a census of Isreal?

    Study the verses carefully and explain to me how they are both inerrantly factual statements.

    And before we get hooked up on whether I can be labelled an 'errantist' and therefore some kind of heretic, I am simply not bothered if either one is actually an error, a correction, an editorial re-think or whatever, BOTH are in the bible and both are inspired, because St. Paul said so.
    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
  9. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    First, then it is acknowledged on both sides that "The wind has wings" is not a historic or scientific statement. I suppose it's you personally who've made that judgment, thus being yourself an example of a person who had decided whether this or that statement is historic/scientific, or not. Does that sufficiently demonstrate to everyone, that there are multiple of genres of literature within Scripture?

    Second, if it's a poetic genre, and not scientific, the central question is: how does one apply the standards of truth to poetry?
    Can you point to some theory in the history of literature that would show how scientific standards may apply to non-scientific genres.
     
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Actually, I have seen many people say that plenty of folks are hungry for the supernatural. If we don't show them the Way, they may well seek out the spiritists, satanists, and occultists to fill the empty place in their lives.

    I have encountered relatively few who were closed to a discussion of the supernatural. To the contrary, they are intrigued by it. When anyone asks me why my family and I moved 1,000 miles without knowing how we would live or pay bills, I tell them honestly, "God told us to move." And they sit with rapt attention, listening to my tale of God's supernatural hand upon our lives, how he showed my wife in a dream a year previous that He would move us to a place that looked a certain way, and so on.

    Perhaps the minds of Brits are more closed to the supernatural in the area where you reside, but then again perhaps you'd be surprised if you would ask God to send the right people across your path for you to witness to.
     
  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Here is a document worth reading, by Woodbridge, concerning the historical belief of the church concerning inerrancy of the word of God. I hope folks will take time to at least skim it. Woodbridge shows that Augustine vigorously opposed those who were in his day beginning to allege that the word of God contained mistakes. One can see a pattern of attack against the Bible from that time forward, and inerrantists have always resisted the attacks. But in the past 200 years the attackers seem to be gaining the upper hand for the first time in two millenia.
    http://tgc-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/UnderstandingTheTimesChapter4.pdf
     
  12. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    To be clear, I am very far from the revisionist camp, and especially as part of the moderating team I certainly am speaking only for myself and no one else. My sole goal in pursuing this line of inquiry is not to weaken but to strengthen the site and the Anglican tradition more generally from skepticism. Please take all of my points here as putative and not at all settled.
     
  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Both are inerrant.

    Here's one way it might have been. God moves in mysterious ways, right? Satan is used even when he thinks it's his own idea. Israel had displeased the Lord and God was allowing them to have some difficulty that would draw them back toward Him. Satan was permitted to tempt David, and David was permitted to sin. If the writer and we take the perspective that God is in control and causes things both good and bad to occur, we can see the sense in which God moved David through the temptation presented by Satan.

    That's a possible way of looking at it. But there may be other explanations (dealing with translation issues or whatever). So I will fall back on the view of Augustine. As I wrote very early this thread, if Augustine came across a text that appeared incongruent with other biblical teaching or seemed to purport some error, he ascribed the problem to one of three causes: (1) a faulty copy of the original text; (2) a poor translation of the original text that does not capture rightly the author’s intended meaning; or (3) himself as a fallible interpreter.
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    That would be out of my league, unfortunately.
     
  15. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Psa 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
    Psa 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

    I like what John Jewel wrote in his Treatise on the Holy Scriptures:
    There is no sentence,
    no clause, no word, no syllable, no letter, but
    it is written for thy instruction; there is not
    one jot, but it is sealed and signed with the
    blood of the Lamb....
    the whole word of God is pure and
    holy: no word, no letter, no syllable, no point
    or prick thereof, but is written and preserved
    for thy sake.​
    Jewel also wrote that whatsoever is "contrary to the word of God... is... falsehood and error."
    If it be falsehood and error, does that not make the word of God the converse: truth without error?
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Both are inspired, though both come from writers who had very different views of God's activity and dealings with us.

    We are not accustomed to thinking of Satan as God's servant. We as Christians have a very different understanding of Satan's role than did the ancient Israelites of the early Old Testament. When Satan, by name, eventually makes his late appearance in the Old Testament it is as a servant of God who undertakes the unpleasant tasks that we would not wish to make God responsible for. (Killing Job's children and flocks, for example). From the earliest times though Satan had no role as an arch enemy of God, as far as Israelite Theology was concerned. God was TOTALLY responsible for everything good and also for everything evil. "I kill and I make alive", says the Lord. "I wound and I heal". After being specifically asssigned by God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, God is even reported as having tried to murder Moses. (Which seems to us to be insanely counterproductive on God's part, but probably made sense to a writer who attributed every event good (or evil, to our way of thinking), totally to Almighty God. see Ex.4:20-28.

    Taking the Census accounts then: One account reflects the theological perspective of an Israelite theologian writing before the Babylonian exile had yet happened. The other account reflects the different theological perspective of another theologian that has experienced the Babylonian exile as history and has postulated convincing explanations for why it had happened.

    The first account assumes Satan to be a servant of the Lord carrying out the Lord's anger at Israel and administering just deserts for their transgression by oppressing them with a census.

    The second comes from a period when Satan was already beginning to be regarded as in opposition to God's will, so the punishment of Israel by imposition of a census is attributed directly to God, who by this time, after the Babylonian exile was considered to have been displeased by the sins of the people to such an extent that He personally had punished the nation for their transgressions by exiling them from their own land.

    So both are 'inerrantly' correct, even though they come from two different eras, two different writers with two different ideas of how both God and Satan operate.

    My own view is that scripture is 'inerrant' for the simple reason that it always accomplishes what God designed it to do. God has said exactly that in scripture. Isa.45:23, Isa.55:11. No matter how many botanically, biologically, scientifically, literary, contradictory, factual errors may be found in it, it still always accomlishes what God intends it to accomplish.

    In my case and I assume in yours too it accomplished the salvation of our souls through prompting our obedience to Christ. If it ever appears to have failed to do that in any individual it is not the fault of scripture or any errancy in it, but the fault of the individual or human society which are as always profoundly, intransigently, errant.

    This is what makes scripture inspired and why it is profitable for all the tasks that a writer of New Testament scripture has itemised in a letter believed to be addressed to a preacher called Timothy. 2 Tim. 3:16
    .
     
  17. Phoenix

    Phoenix Moderator Staff Member Anglican

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    Jewel’s treatise may actually be a classic exposition of the doctrine of inspiration:

    “The wind has wings” is certainly “written for our instruction.”

    “The wind has wings” is that jot which too was “sealed and signed with the blood of the Lamb.”

    And the same goes for all the rest of the clauses.

    If we can find the doctrine of inerrancy (as opposed to inspiration) in the Reformation or the patristic texts, now would be a good time to bring them out.
     
  18. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I like what Jewell wrote as well.

    Psalm 12:6-7 (NRSV)
    The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
    silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

    You, O Lord, will protect us;
    you will guard us from this generation for ever.​

    The NRSV translation is less disposed than the Coverdale to the nuance that you suggested. In the Psalms the looking is to the law as understood (perhaps Torah) than the histories and prophets as come to be part of the Old Testament. In the New Testament the scriptures, where it invokes that is probably referring to the LXX, or perhaps simply to writings more generally. I am firmly of the view that you cannot use scripture to prove the inerrancy of scripture because quite simply that is a self contained and sealed system.

    The central response of Christianity is faith, God is prisoner of neither book nor tabernacle.
     
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  19. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Which translation of the scriptures were you quoting here?

    It looks the same as the KJV. Unless you compare other translations you may make unwarranted assumptions concerning the way the text has translated the original scriptures. The unwarranted assumption here might be, for instance, that it says the Lord will keep the scriptures and preserve them for ever. (That is by inference the impression it most obviously leaves on the modern English language reader). This of course as an assumption could well be true, but it is most definitely not what the scripture quoted here actually says.

    The BCP translation of Ps.12:5-8 goes lke this:

    Now for the comfortless troubles' sake of the needy : and because of the deep sighing of the poor,
    I will up, saith the Lord : and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest.
    The words of the Lord are pure words : even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.
    Thou shalt keep them , O Lord : thou shalt preserve him from this generation for ever.

    For other translations use this link and search them. Ps.12:5-8 RSV

    The 'them' that shall be 'kept' by God are every one who is poor, needy and oppressed by those that swell against them.
    It is they, the poor and oppressed that the Lord will preserve from their successive generations of oppressors.

    The scripture may indeed be inerrable but these particular verses of it by no means provide proof of it's infallibility or incapability of erring and any attempt to use this scripture as evidence that scripture says of the scriptures, that God will keep them, and preserve them, from this generation for ever, would be abusing the very scriptures they profess to be inerrable, by errantly misquoting the meaning of them.

    So you see that even an inerrable Bible, (if for argument's sake we assume it to be so), does not protect us from our own ignorance and errancy. Neither does it prevent preachers and teachers from spreading those errors, born of their own ignorance, throughout God's people.

    Warnings in scripture itself against such misinterpreters of scripture and wrong teaching are abundant and one passage even says not many should become teachers because judgment for false or erroneous teaching will be harsher than for those who remain silent about things they do not yet properly understand. James 3:1.
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    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Good point, Tiffy. No translation is perfect because all were done by imperfect men. Copyist errors, translation errors, and other errors have occurred in each version. Fortunately for mankind, none of the errors change any significant doctrine of the faith.