Chicago Statement on Biblical
Summit I of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy took place
in Chicago on October 26-28, 1978 for the purpose of affirming afresh
the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, making clear the
understanding of it and warning against its denial. In the years that
have passed since Summit I, God has blessed that effort in ways
surpassing most anticipations. A gratifying flow of helpful literature
on the doctrine of inerrancy as well as a growing commitment to its
value give cause to pour forth praise to our great God.
The work of Summit I had hardly been completed when it became evident
that there was yet another major task to be tackled. While we recognize
that belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is basic to maintaining its
authority, the values of that commitment are only as real as one's
understanding of the meaning of Scripture. Thus, the need for Summit
II. For two years plans were laid and papers were written on themes
relating to hermeneutical principles and practices. The culmination of
this effort has been a meeting in Chicago on November 10-13, 1982 at
which we, the undersigned, have participated.
In similar fashion to the Chicago Statement of 1978, we herewith
present these affirmations and denials as an expression of the results
of our labors to clarify hermeneutical issues and principles. We do not
claim completeness or systematic treatment of the entire subject, but
these affirmations and denials represent a consensus of the
approximately one hundred participants and observers gathered at this
conference. It has been a broadening experience to engage in dialogue,
and it is our prayer that God will use the product of our diligent
efforts to enable us and others to more correctly handle the word of
truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
We affirm that the normative authority of Holy Scripture is the
authority of God Himself, and is attested by Jesus Christ, the Lord of
the Church. We deny the legitimacy of separating the authority of
Christ from the authority of Scripture, or of opposing the one to the
We affirm that as Christ is God and Man in One Person, so Scripture is,
indivisibly, God's Word in human language. We deny that the humble,
human form of Scripture entails errancy any more than the humanity of
Christ, even in His humiliation, entails sin.
We affirm that the Person and work of Jesus Christ are the central
focus of the entire Bible. We deny that any method of interpretation
which rejects or obscures the Christ-centeredness of Scripture is
We affirm that the Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture acts through it
today to work faith in its message. We deny that the Holy Spirit ever
teaches to any one anything which is contrary to the teaching of
We affirm that the Holy Spirit enables believers to appropriate and
apply Scripture to their lives. We deny that the natural man is able to
discern spiritually the biblical message apart from the Holy Spirit.
We affirm that the Bible expresses God's truth in propositional
statements, and we declare that biblical truth is both objective and
absolute. We further affirm that a statement is true if it represents
matters as they actually are, but is an error if it misrepresents the
facts. We deny that, while Scripture is able to make us wise unto
salvation, biblical truth should be defined in terms of this function.
We further deny that error should be defined as that which willfully
We affirm that the meaning expressed in each biblical text is single,
definite and fixed. We deny that the recognition of this single meaning
eliminates the variety of its application.
We affirm that the Bible contains teachings and mandates which apply to
all cultural and situational contexts and other mandates which the
Bible itself shows apply only to particular situations. We deny that
the distinctions between the universal and particular mandates of
Scripture can be determined by cultural and situational factors. We
further deny that universal mandates may ever be treated as culturally
or situationally relative.
We affirm that the term hermeneutics, which historically signified the
rules of exegesis, may properly be extended to cover all that is
involved in the process of perceiving what the biblical revelation
means and how it bears on our lives. We deny that the message of
Scripture derives from, or is dictated by, the interpreter's
understanding. Thus we deny that the "horizons" of the biblical writer
and the interpreter any rightly "fuse" in such a way that what the text
communicates to the interpreter is not ultimately controlled by the
expressed meaning of the Scripture.
We affirm that Scripture communicates God's truth to us verbally
through a wide variety of literary forms. We deny that any of the
limits of human language render Scripture inadequate to convey God's
We affirm that translations of the text of Scripture can communicate
knowledge of God across all temporal and cultural boundaries. We deny
that the meaning of biblical texts is so tied to the culture out of
which they came that understanding of the same meaning in other
cultures is impossible.
We affirm that in the task of translating the Bible and teaching it in
the context of each culture, only those functional equivalents which
are faithful to the content of biblical teaching should be employed. We
deny the legitimacy of methods which either are insensitive to the
demands of cross-cultural communication or distort biblical meaning in
We affirm that awareness of the literary categories, formal and
stylistic, of the various parts of Scripture is essential for proper
exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many
disciplines of biblical study. We deny that generic categories which
negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which
present themselves as factual.
We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings,
though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms,
corresponds to historical fact. We deny that any event, discourse or
saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by
the traditions they incorporated.
We affirm the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its
literal, or normal, sense. The literal sense is the
grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer
expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take
account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text
We deny the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to
it meaning which the literal sense does not support.
We affirm that legitimate critical techniques should be used in
determining the canonical text and its meaning. We deny the legitimacy
of allowing any method of biblical criticism to question the truth or
integrity of the writer's expressed meaning, or of any other scriptural
We affirm the unity, harmony and consistency of Scripture and declare
that it is its own best interpreter. We deny that Scripture may be
interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or
militates against another. We deny that later writers of Scripture
misinterpreted earlier passages of Scripture when quoting from or
referring to them.
We affirm that the Bible's own interpretation of itself is always
correct, never deviating from, but rather elucidating, the single
meaning of the inspired text. The single meaning of a prophet's words
includes, but is not restricted to, the understanding of those words by
the prophet and necessarily involves the intention of God evidenced in
the fulfillment of those words. We deny that the writers of Scripture
always understood the full implications of their own words.
We affirm that any preunderstandings which the interpreter brings to
Scripture should be in harmony with scriptural teaching and subject to
correction by it. We deny that Scripture should be required to fit
alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism,
evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism.
We affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths,
biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere, and that the
Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature,
history, or anything else. We further affirm that in some cases
extra-biblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches,
and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations. We deny that
extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold
priority over it.
We affirm the harmony of special with general revelation and therefore
of biblical teaching with the facts of nature. We deny that any genuine
scientific facts are inconsistent with the true meaning of any passage
We affirm that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book. We
deny that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that
scientific hypotheses about earth history or the origin of humanity may
be invoked to overthrow what Scripture teaches about creation.
We affirm the clarity of Scripture and specifically of its message
about salvation from sin. We deny that all passages of Scripture are
equally clear or have equal bearing on the message of redemption.
We affirm that a person is not dependent for understanding of Scripture
on the expertise of biblical scholars. We deny that a person should
ignore the fruits of the technical study of Scripture by biblical
We affirm that the only type of preaching which sufficiently conveys
the divine revelation and its proper application to life is that which
faithfully expounds the text of Scripture as the Word of God. We deny
that the preacher has any message from God apart from the text of