Zeteo Eurisko said:
“Thus, back to my honest query for you. Adequacy is not the question.”
Adequacy is the question when it’s a question of copies. Inerrant copies don’t figure in the traditional definition of inerrancy.
Once again, you were originally asking for a definition. The definition of inerrancy doesn’t extend to the copies.
I don’t mind if you want to ask a different question, but that’s an accurate answer to the first part of you question.
“The question remains unanswered: why would God bother to directly inspire authors and not take an intervening role in preserving the text?”
Several issues here:
i) The source of Protestant theology is revealed theology. We don’t do theology by positing what we think would be an ideal state of affairs, and then positing the conditions to realize that ideal.
One basic reason we ascribe inerrancy to the autographa and not to the copies is that Scripture ascribes inerrancy to the autographa and not to the copies.
ii) We do believe that God had a providential role in the preservation of the text. But he did not will to preserve a textual tradition identical to the autographa.
iii) Since your question is speculative, the answer will be speculative.
There is certainly a difference between having errant copies of errant originals, and having errant copies of inerrant originals.
This is especially the case if it’s possible to recover the original with a high degree of certainty from errant copies.
And this is the more so if (a), due to the redundancy of Biblical teaching, as well as (b) the trivial nature of most textual variants, no article of the faith was lost as a consequence of a fallible transmission process.
It is simply unnecessary to have inerrant copies if you can retrieve the original to a sufficient degree of accuracy using ordinary methods of transcription and critical reconstruction.
iv) Indeed, for God to inspire every scribe would blur the distinction between special revelation and ordinary providence, divine speech and human speech.
This would defeat the purpose of having revelation in the first place, since it would become impossible to demarcate the line between inspired and uninspired speech, to know when one took up where the other left off.
Are we to suppose that if Bertrand Russell were quoting Scripture to disprove Scripture, God would have to inspire Russell’s citation, so that Russell would be divinely inspired every time he quoted the Bible?
What about a paraphrase or summary? Would that also have to be inspired?
Even before the Fall there was a difference between God speaking and Adam speaking, where one ended while the other began.
“Asking the question from another angle: if the preservation of scripture is clearly the work of fallible men, could not the authorship be as well?”
This question is ambiguous. Are you asking if the ascription of authorship could be fallible, or are you asking if the Scriptural authors could be fallible?
“Most importantly, how do we tell the difference?”
i) If you’re posing the first version of the question (authorial attribution), then that’s a matter of internal and external evidence regarding authorship.
ii) If you’re posing the second version of the question (inspired authorship), then that goes to the various lines of evidence for the inspiration of Scripture.