Those familiar with G.K. Beale’s earlier work on Scripture will know of his strong insistence (taking all the usual caveats into account) that Scripture is without error.
This article, from the Spring 2011 edition of Westminster Theological Journal sees Beale engaging less in debate with those who disagree (though he does mention Andrew McGowan’s work at the start) and more in first-order work on a particular biblical text, the book of Revelation in this case, in order to support an inerrant position.
‘My article will attempt to respond from the book of Revelation to views like that of McGowan. I will contend the following: (1) that John is more explicit about the doctrine of inerrancy than many think; (2) that John, in particular, explicitly refers to Christ’s character as “true” and then applies the attribute of “truth” from Christ’s character to the written word of Revelation as being “true.”’ (2)
His argument unfolds as follows:
1. John’s prophetic commission to write is based on the prophetic commission of Ezekiel to write
Here he notes the several links between the commissions of John and Ezekiel (not just the ‘scroll’ passage in Revelation 10:8-11), seeking to show that for both, the ‘commission entails not only seeing visions from God and hearing God’s word but also putting these visions and divine words into written form’ (4).
‘Their message carries with it the power of God’s word because it is God’s word, and it is this that they are commissioned to deliver... The point of repeatedly applying Ezekiel’s commission to that of John’s throughout the Apocalypse is to underscore that he has the same prophetic authority as Ezekiel the prophet’ (6).
2. The significance of Revelation 22:18-19 for the prophetic authority of the written form of Revelation
He looks at Revelation 22:18-19 (the warning not to add or take away from the book) exploring allusions back to several passages in Deuteronomy (4:1-2; 12:32; 29:19-20). In both cases, he avers, the ‘adding and taking away’ refers ‘to false teaching about the inscripturated word and following such deceptive teaching’ (8).
3. John’s prophetic commission to write true words is based on the truthful character of God and Christ from whom the words come
He recognises that this conclusion about ‘John’s flawless message’ rests ‘technically on logical deductions’ flowing out of the biblical data (i.e., in Ezekiel and Deuteronomy being alluded to in the book of Revelation), but he also contends that ‘they are inferences also explicitly and exegetically deduced later in Revelation itself’ (10-11).
In the remainder of the article, then, he seeks to show ‘(1) that John is commanded to “write” down the oral “words” from God and Christ in a “book,” (2) and the written words will be “faithful and true,” (3) because they come from Christ and God, who are “faithful and true.” (4) And because John writes under prophetic inspiration and authority, what he writes unswervingly represents what he has heard God or Christ say’ (11).
He looks particularly at the ‘faithful and true’ references in Revelation 3:14, 21:5 and 22:6, and the ‘true words of God’ reference in Revelation 19:9.
4. Reflection on the significance of the reference to the written words of Revelation being referred to as authoritative
‘Revelation 19:9, 21:6, 22:6, 18-19 all refer to the written words of the book as “true” or “faithful and true” or as inviolable. The fact that not mere concepts but the very written words are to be seen as without mistake is apparent in noticing especially the specific references in 19:9 and 21:9’ (18).
In the Conclusion he draws attention to Psalm 119:137-142 with its references to God’s character as ‘righteous’ and his written Scripture as likewise ‘righteous’, ‘pure’, and ‘true’, arguing that, like other parts of Scripture, John’s inference is that ‘since God’s character is unswervingly true, his written word of Scripture is unswervingly true’ (21).