Is the Bible Really God’s Word?

 

The question of whether we can accept the Bible as an authority in our lives is one that has concerned people ever since the Scriptures began to be written. What makes the writings that are found in the Bible any more valuable or reliable than anything else that has been written down over mankind’€™s history?  Does the Bible really spring from a divine source? Would the God of the Universe really condescend to communicate with mortal, sinful humans? What process was involved in the development of the biblical text? These are all valid questions and the answers to them are both edifying and satisfying.


Would God Reveal Himself?


The first thing we should consider in approaching this topic is whether a holy, infinite God would ever reveal Himself to finite, sinful humans.
[1] Observation of the created Universe and of our fellow humans furnishes the most basic clues. The magnificence of nature reveals to us a God of infinite power and wisdom, but the makeup of the human personality reveals more. People are capable of emotions and motives that we would consider noble; the faculty of conscience demonstrates a measure of moral character that is common to all.  These moral qualities could only have been implanted by the One who created us and they are reflective of His personality and character. Such a God would reasonably be expected to have compassion on His creation and an active interest in their lives. It is completely in accord with that sort of character that He would wish to reveal Himself to His intelligent creation.


Further, the level of power that is shown in the creation of the Universe clearly demonstrates that God is able to reveal Himself. And because God has endowed man with an intellect, it is also apparent that man would be able to understand the revelation that God provided. It seems highly probable, therefore, that God would reveal Himself to mankind and we may conclude that He has done this primarily in two ways. The first, as already mentioned, is through the display of his power and character in His creation, and the second, a more specific and detailed revelation, is in Scripture.


But Why the Bible?


We may at this point acknowledge that it does seem reasonable that God would reveal Himself in written form to mankind. Why, however, should we accept the Bible as being that revelation? What factors make the Bible stand out from all the other “€œholy writings”€ of the various religions of the world? There are many, but we discuss here only a few because of space limitations:


The Bible has stood the test of time.
Age alone does not necessarily imply a divine origin, but given the brief shelf life of most written works, it is reasonable to expect that a work that has its origin with God would be one that survives. The Bible has been preserved more remarkably than any book in history. From the beginning of its writing around 3500 years ago to the present day, no written work has faced more opposition or more attempts to destroy it than has the Bible. Nonetheless, it continues to be the most widely circulated book in the world, today more than ever. That is exactly what we would expect from a work that is the revealed Word of an omnipotent God whose will is that His word be preserved for all generations.


The Bible is unified.
It was written by about 40 human authors having greatly differing personalities, over a period of more than 1500 years, under vastly different circumstances and using a wide variety of literary forms. Yet the reader of the Bible sees a remarkable unity; it tells one consistent story from beginning to end.


Bible prophecy is fulfilled.
There are literally hundreds of prophecies in the Bible, and not one has ever failed, though some are still awaiting fulfillment. However, the many predictions that have already been fulfilled have come to pass with an accuracy that is beyond human capability to attain. Repeatedly, the futures of nations and peoples have been predicted and have occurred exactly as written -€“ in some cases, extending all the way down to the present day! Additionally, a very large number of prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and came to pass down to the smallest details.


The Bible is historically accurate.
No discovery of historians or archaeologists has ever disproved so much as a sentence of the Bible. In fact, there have been cases in which the work of historians needed to be corrected in order to conform to the Bible as more archaeological evidence was discovered. Kings and peoples that were mentioned in the Bible were thought by historians in the past to have been fictional, until actual evidence was unearthed that proved beyond a doubt that the Scripture was accurate.


The Bible’€™s influence is unique.
Unlike the holy books of other religions, the Bible has literally changed the world by changing the lives of people. It offers the highest moral standard and has influenced people and society as a whole for the better. Additionally, the Scriptures have encouraged artists, architects, musicians and writers to produce their finest works as a tribute to their great Author. No other book has ever come close to the Bible’€™s impact on human society.


The Bible changes lives.
Even more profound than its influence on society as a whole is the effect that the Bible has had on individual lives. Through its pages, men and women have met its Author and formed a personal relationship with him that has transformed their lives for the better. There is no scoundrel or criminal whose life is beyond God’€™s power to redeem. It is in the pages of Scripture that God’€™s power is found by those who explore it with a willing heart. Hundreds of millions throughout history have testified of the work that God’€™s power has done in their lives as a result of what they read in the Bible.


How Was the Bible Recorded?


Even if we acknowledge the Bible’€™s uniqueness as a book, we may wonder in what way it is different from any human writing. The Bible makes the claim to be “€œinspired of God.”€ We often speak of a particular book, painting, or musical composition as being an “inspired”€ work. Is that what is meant -€“ that the Bible is merely the product of very talented and creative individuals operating at peak levels?


The Bible itself testifies that more is involved. At 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 we read, “€œAll Scripture is God-breathed
[2] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”€ So the Bible claims that all of it -€“ not just parts -€“ has its origin with God, a concept that theologians refer to as plenary inspiration. Also, we see in this text that the Bible is sufficient for all of man’€™s spiritual needs. Finally, it is the text itself (“€œScripture”€), and not the human writers, that is said to be God-breathed; theologians refer to this as verbal inspiration.


There is, of course, much variance among translations of the Bible, but it is important to remember that it is the original manuscripts of the Bible that were God-breathed and not copies or translations. Though we do not today possess the autographs (original manuscripts) of the biblical writings, the science of textual criticism assures us that by using the copies and translations we do have, we are able to be certain of the original text to a very high degree of accuracy. We can therefore be certain that the Bible we have today is indeed the Word of God as He gave it.


The process of inspiration is discussed at 2 Peter 1:20, 21: “€œAbove 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 man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”€ This text discusses how Scripture “€œcame about,”€ that is, how it came into existence. So it isn’€™t talking about how people understand Scripture that already exists; rather it is saying that nothing in the Bible came as a result of human ideas, philosophies or interpretations. Scripture was given to man by God.


Peter says that the writers of Scripture were “€œcarried along,”€ as a wind carries a ship along the sea. The captain of such a ship still has control of his vessel, but he relies on and is at the mercy of the wind to reach his destination. Similarly, the process through which God breathed His words into existence allowed for the full expression of the writer’€™s abilities in phrasing, type of literature and style; nonetheless, the finished product is the Word of God. It was overseen by the Holy Spirit in such a way that the words written were the very words that He wanted recorded.


A Personal Testimony


I was raised in a home where religious observance was largely absent. However, I was taught as a child to revere the Bible as a book from God. That teaching and my acceptance of it has made a profound difference in my life. Though I only began as a teenager to learn very much about what the Bible said, it was at that age that I was sufficiently moved by its words to give my life to Christ as Lord and Savior. Because I was not diligent about studying the Word and had no reliable source of guidance, I was easy prey for cultists, and spent many years in a group that claimed to have all the answers about the Bible while distorting its teachings. Nonetheless, in His time, the Lord opened up His Word to me. Ultimately He made the way for me to come out of that cult, allowing me to serve Him fully and to experience a great deal of enlightenment from Scripture. One of my great concerns upon emerging from the cult was to understand the ways in which the Bible was distorted and to become familiar enough with it that I could not be deceived again. My education with Moody Bible Institute was a great help in that regard, and the Bible continues to impact my life in significant ways.


Conclusion


The above has only been a brief summary of the reasons to believe that the Bible is the very Word that God has given to men and the process by which He did so. Much more detail could be added. But I believe that this short discussion has at least provided the framework for further study and inquiry and has demonstrated that there is good reason to regard the Bible as God’€™s unique revelation to mankind, worthy of our study and devotion.

Bibliography


Baker, William H. Survey of Theology 1 Study Guide.
Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 2004 rev.


Barker, Kenneth, Gen. Ed. The NIV Study Bible, 10th Anniversary Ed.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.


Dorman, Ted M. Faith for all Seasons,
Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.


Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000 rev.


Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology.
Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.


Notes:

[1] For purposes of this paper, the existence of God the Creator is assumed. Evidence for the actual existence of God is beyond the scope and intent of this writing.
[2] Many Bible translations use the term “€œinspired”€ here rather than “€œGod-breathed.”€ However, I concur with Grudem (p. 75), who asserts that “€œGod-breathed”€ (used in the NIV) is the better term, since it more exactly carries the meaning of the original Greek term (theopneustos) and because it avoids confusion with the common usage of the word “inspired”€ to apply to purely human efforts.