The Sacred collection of Christian writings is thought by some to be a book of fairy tales passed down to us through the ages. This is one way of looking at Scripture. It’s an interesting book of moral fiction and traditional fables. But there’s another view.
The Bible is inherited from ancient times. But this does not necessarily make it a book of fairy tales. The Bible can be a book of eye witness accounts of some of the world’s earliest events. Not a book of tales but a manuscript of ancient testimony. This primeval statement is passed on to us more like case law not folklore. Read a Bible https://www.biblegateway.com/
A goat herder is capable of witnessing a murder, a war, and a phenomenon. And a goat herder is capable of making a sworn statement about what he saw.
This is the essence of the Bible. It’s a collection of avowed testimonies from ancient goat herders, fishermen, prostitutes, scribes, priests, architects, governors, soldiers, physicians, princes and kings. Their ancient testimonies comprise a world view declared to executive heads of state, despotic rulers and legitimate authorities. This is but the human side because the Bible is not mere
case law, dramatic testimony or a record of events which occurred long ago.
So, what is the Bible and how did we get it?
Today most writing paper is made out of wood pulp on a machine. Ancient books, however, were written on a material called Byblus or Papyrus. This material was a substance extracted from the plant of a water reed.
Out of this custom came the Greek names biblos translated as book in Matthew’s Gospel 1:1 or the diminutive biblion translated, as ‘scroll’ in Luke’s Gospel 4:17.
The word Bible originally meant a small book or scroll or any sheet on which something was written.
Our English term Bible has derived from the Greek word biblia (plural) meaning books, i.e. the 66 books from Genesis to Revelation. In the course of time biblia was used as a singular noun, so instead of being called the ‘Holy Books’ plural, the Bible was referred to as the Holy Book singular.
What is The Bible?
The Bible, is a collection of writings that is the WORD OF GOD.
What is meant by the phrase ‘Word of God’?
There are several different meanings taken of this Word of God phrase in the Bible. Scripture portrays the Word of God in various forms.
1. In the person of Jesus Christ
God’s word became a human being John 1:1,14 through the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
2. God’s word as a decree.
Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light.” which is a command.
3. Personal address to individuals.
Genesis 2:16, 17 Speaking to Adam and Eve. God’s personal address to Moses and the people of Israel, Ezra 20:1-3.
4. Speech through human lips
The Prophets Deut. 18, Jeremiah 1:7 etc.
5. Written form.
The stone tablets given to Moses were initially written by God, Exodus 31:18. Under God’s authority there was additional writings by Moses. Exodus 31:9-13, additional writing by Joshua, Joshua 4:28. p47ff and this writing continued throughout the ages to give us the Bible as we have it.
See, Grudem Systematic Theology IVP.
That the Bible is the Word of God is formally confirmed by what scripture says about itself:
2 Timothy 3:16 – ‘All scripture is God breathed’ Greek theopneustos, from Theo=God, Pneo=breathe.
The phrase ‘God breathed’ may be intended as an illusion to God breathing into the nostrils of Adam and making him spring to life. The picture is that Scripture is the very Life and Word of God.
This is what we mean when we say that the Bible is ‘inspired’. The term inspiration derives from a Latin word also mean ‘breathe into or upon’.
What is meant by the phrase ‘Inspired’?
The inspiration of the Bible does not refer to the sort of inspiration that an inspired musician, poet or painter may at times experience. Literature and artistic work is said to be inspired if it is intellectually, emotionally or volitionally moving. It’s good to be inspired in this way.
Get inspired by reading a Bible devotional! https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/
However, the theological term for inspiration designates a more objective reality. It’s the scriptures that are inspired and not the writers or the artists.
Scripture contains poetry, music and history, etc. written by human pen, but the Bible is God’s message to man, not man’s message to fellow man. The Bible is God’s book, not man’s book.
It is important for us to briefly consider the ‘theoretical views of inspiration’.
According to the intuition theory inspiration is an ability of insight into moral or spiritual truth, the inspired genius of an elite group of gifted men. However, this is a mistaken view – 2 Peter 1:20-21 shows us that no writer of scripture ever depended on his own reasoning or imagination in the writing process,
‘Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation, for prophecy never had its origin in the will of men, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’
According to the partial inspiration theory, some mistakenly believe that some writes of the Bible are more inspired than others. Such as Jesus’ words are thought to be more inspired than the words of His disciples. Or only the direct quotes of God are inspired but other passages of scripture are without inspiration.
This idea destroys confidence in the Bible and contradicts the statement of ‘all scripture is inspired’ 2 Timothy 3:16.
Jesus accepted the full inspiration of the entire Old Testament with His sweeping declaration – ‘Scripture cannot be broken’, John 10:35 and Matthew 5:18.
This view is sometimes called mechanical inspiration. God is thought to prescribe His words to the writer much as one dictates a letter to a stenographer. This idea suppresses the personalities of the authors who wrote the Bible. It turns them into passive instruments rather than penmen of God.
The scriptures were penned by at least 40 authors. The various personalities and particular vocabularies of these authors are obviously distinguishable. That the forty writers of scripture all come from different backgrounds and walks of life is clearly observable – shepherds, statesmen, priests, fishermen, the well-educated and the relatively unlearned. The diversities and varying expressions of these 40 writers show that they were not spiritual clones. The integrity of the writers as individuals is carefully preserved by the special acts of inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the words of B B Warrfield:
‘every word of scripture without exception is the word of God, but alongside of this every word is the word of man.’
Plenary and verbal inspiration.
Plenary is a term that means ‘full’ or ‘complete’. Plenary inspiration means that each book, chapter and paragraph of the Bible is equally derived from God. Verbal inspiration emphasises the truth that the wording of the text as well as the ideas conveyed, is supernaturally inspired by God the Holy Spirit. A summary regarding the strengths and weakness of the theories of inspiration are summarised in the following chart.
Implications of plenary inspiration
Because scripture is the Word of God we recognise it to be utterly true and incapable of error. God’s word is perfect, Psalm 19:7 and God does not lie, Titus 1:2.
The two terms used to express the nature of this faultless biblical authority are the words inerrancy and infallibility.
The words are almost identical but some have preferred the term ‘inerrancy’ to distinguish themselves from those who held that ‘infallibility’ may refer to a truthful message of the
Bible without necessarily meaning the Bible contains no errors.
Over the years unbelieving critics have made extensive lists of what they call discrepancies of the Bible and some have claimed that the Bible was indisputably in error. In 1874 J W Haley did a thorough study of these discrepancies and in concluding his study Haley found that the alleged discrepancies arose from several causes:
1. A failure to read what the Bible actually says’
2. False interpretations of the Bible especially those that fail to take into account the ancient customs and modes of speech.
3. Wrong ideas of the Bible as a whole and a failure to recognise that the Bible on occasions records the words of Satan and of evil people. For example, God told Job’s friends, ‘you have not spoken of me what is right’, Job 42:8. But the Bible gives a true record of what they said, even though they were wrong.
4. A failure to recognise that some accounts are condensations of what was said or done.
5. Chronological difficulties due to the fact that Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used different systems of measuring time or dating. Even Israel and Judah sometimes differed in their methods in counting Kings’ reigns.
6. Apparent discrepancies in numbers due to the fact that some passages use round numbers, others give more exact figures depending on the purpose of the writer.
7. In some places copyist errors crept into certain ancient manuscripts. A comparison of manuscripts has corrected most of these errors, (in fact most scholars agree on what was the original reading in the vast majority of cases. Furthermore, those cases where we cannot be sure do not affect the teachings of the Bible in any way).
8. Finally, some so-called discrepancies were just a matter of a Hebrew or Greek word having more than one meaning, just as some of our English words so, i.e. compere ‘lead in’ ‘lead weight’ and ‘lead the blind’. One after another alleged mistakes and discrepancies have been proved false. Again, and again new discoveries, by science and archaeologists and other scholars have proved that the so-called errors of the Bible were errors of the critics, due to their unbelief and their insufficient knowledge.
One such example is cited by Dr Stanley Horton who heard a Harvard Professor say that seven-fold lamps were not in existence in Moses’ time, therefore, the Bible was mistaken when it told of one being made and placed in the tabernacle, Exodus 37:17-24. However, on an archaeological expedition at Dothan in 1962 with Dr Joseph Free of Wheaton College, Dr Horton watched workmen uncover a sevenfold lamp dating from 1400 BC, right from the time of Moses. P26 and 27 Bible Doctrines Pentecostal Perspectives.
One of the greatest and most respected scholars of oriental studies was William F Albright. He wrote the following statement concerning the Bible:
‘The reader may rest assured that nothing has been found (by archaeologists) to disturb a reasonable faith, and nothing has been discovered which can disprove a single theological doctrine. We no longer trouble ourselves with attempts to harmonise religion and science, or to prove the Bible, the Bible can stand for itself.’
Because scripture has been inspired it has been supernaturally preserved from error. Inerrancy is a term that is used to convey this view. Inerrancy ‘exempt from error’.
The second word which conveys inspired biblical authority is the word ‘infallibility’.
This word is very nearly the same as inerrancy. The difference is on account that the root meaning of infallibility is ‘not liable to fail in achieving its purpose’.
Until about 1960 /65, the word infallible was used interchangeably with the word inerrant. But in recent years, at least in the USA, the word infallible has been used in a weaker sense to mean that the Bible will not lead us astray in matters of faith and practice. But this does not necessarily apply to science, history and the other areas of scripture. Those who maintain this position are not advocating an orthodox view of infallibility.
The true meaning of scripture’s inerrancy and infallibility are defined in the ‘Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy’:
Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe and reliable guide in all matters. Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from falsehood or mistakes and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
Secondly, that the Bible is the word of God is formally confirmed by the prophets.
The prophets introduce their statements with ‘ ‘thus says the Lord’, ‘the word of the Lord that came to me’, or something similar to these phrases. Bible scholar Rene Pache found 3,808 of these divine declarations in the Old Testament. He rightly concluded that they emphasise the express word of God.
Exodus 34:27, 1 Chronicles 28:19, Jeremiah 36:1-2, 21,32. Each writer explains that he has recorded what God has revealed to him expressing it in the same terms that he received from God.
This does not mean that God dictated every word in the Bible. It means that God revealed His truth to the prophets and showed them how they should present it. The Holy Spirit used a wide range of means to influence the Old Testament writers. God led them to His word in terms of their own outlook, interests, literary habits and peculiarities of style.
God’s Word is not up for debate. It’s down to what the heart receives.
‘And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe’.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
That the Bible is the Word of God is formally confirmed by Christian personalities. Individual Christians regard the Bible to be God’s word. In the 2nd century A D Justin Martyer called the Bible ‘the very language of God’.
In the 4th century A D Gregory Nyssa said it was the ‘voice of the Holy Spirit’.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Protestant reformers, Zwingli, Calvin, Luther, etc. echoed those same assertions.
In the 19th century, Christopher Wordsworth said, ‘we affirm that the Bible is the word of God and that it is not marred with human infirmities’.
In the 20th century J I Packer said, ‘scripture is the word of God’.
That the Bible is the word of God is formally confirmed by the world-wide Christian community, (the Church). This acceptance is known as the Canon of Scripture.
The Canon of Scripture was decided at a ministerial gathering known as the Council of Carthage, AD 397. At this very important event, church representatives unanimously recognised the 27 New Testament books as ‘divine scripture’. The Old Testament Canon is officially recognised from approximately 465 BC.
View a Bible commentary http://biblehub.com/commentaries/
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I will explain the Canonization of the Old and New Testaments in further blogs at a later date.