Lesson 7: The Bible: Human & Divine | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 7: The Bible: Human and Divine

In the previous lesson, we learned that God’s only means of special revelation today is the Bible.

[Review difference between special and general revelation.] The Bible is unique in that it was written over a long period of time by many people. Therefore, God has taken special care to guide man in the production, compilation, and maintenance of the Scriptures.

[Production: it’s inspiration/writing; compilation: it’s assembly/canonization; maintenance: it’s endurance/preservation ]

In this lesson, we will learn that:

1. The Bible is inspired .

2. The Bible is complete .

3. The Bible is preserved .

I. The Bible is Inspired.

The word “inspiration” is used to describe the process by which God gave the Bible to man. “God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message to mankind in the words of their original writings” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 71). This definition includes both the divine and human activity involved in the production of Scripture.

A. The divine aspect of inspiration

1. God is the source of all Scripture.

All Scripture is God breathed.   2 Timothy 3:16

The word “God-breathed” is a descriptive way of saying that God is the source of the Bible. Even though God Himself did not do the actual writing, the words, sentences, and thoughts of the Bible are those which God wanted written .

Theologians use the word “ plenary ” (meaning “full”) to indicate that the Bible as a whole is the Word of God. The Bible does not merely contain God’s Word; rather, the Bible is God’s Word.

[What’s the difference? If the Bible only contained God’s Word, it could possibly contain factual errors and parts that are not really God’s Word. Saying the Bible is God’s Word means that every part of it is exactly what God intended.]

2. The significance of the Bible’s divine authorship

a. The Bible is without error (inerrant).

God, who does not lie . . . .   Titus 1:2

Your word is truth.   John 17:17

[What about matters of history and science? It’s still true, although the Bible is not a science textbook.

Does inerrancy pass over to a specific version? No. Inerrancy properly pertains to the original autographs, the manuscripts that the biblical authors penned. No version or copy is truly inerrant, because there are very likely minor scribal errors, mistranslations, and the like. Does lack of inerrancy make our versions useless or corrupt? No. Several versions have a high degree of accuracy and are thus very reliable. But they are inerrant in a derivative sense–to the degree that they reflect the inerrant original, they are inerrant.]

Since God Himself is the source of the Scriptures, they are without error. Furthermore, since the entire Bible is inspired, the entire Bible is inerrant.

b. The Bible is authoritative (infallible).

The Scripture cannot be broken.   John 10:35

Although closely related, inerrancy and infallibility are not synonymous. Inerrancy emphasizes the Bible’s truthfulness , while infallibility emphasizes its

authority . Infallibility means that because the Bible is the Word of God, it is the final authority on all matters.

[Inerrancy and infallibility are pretty much synonymous. Infallibility stresses the idea that the Bible makes no false or misleading statements and is incapable of leading one astray. ]

c. The Bible is relevant .

[Relevant means meaningful, useful, practical. It speaks to us today. ]

All Scripture . . . is useful.   2 Timothy 3:16

Although God has revealed truth about Himself to specific people in specific places at specific times, the value of the Bible’s message is not restricted to any particular time or place.

d. The Bible is unified .

Because God Himself is the author of the Bible, it never contradicts itself. Passages that are difficult to grasp may be understood by comparing them with the clear teachings of other biblical texts. As a result, the Bible often interprets itself .

[You may hear the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This means that one part of the Bible explains another part. “The analogy of Scripture” is the same idea. Rule: always let the clear passage interpret or explain the unclear passage. Also, never base a doctrine on an unclear passage.

What about apparent contradictions? There are several places in which the Bible does apparently contradict itself. E.g., 1 Sam 17:51 vs. 2 Sam 21:19. Often times with study, the contradiction disappears. Or a scribal slip (especially with numbers) could be the reason. There are no real/valid contradictions, only apparent ones.]

B. The human aspect of inspiration

1. The Bible was written in human language .

The Bible was written in the languages commonly spoken by its writers and readers (the Old Testament primarily in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek). Therefore, one should interpret the Bible as he would interpret normal written communication.

[For some time scholars thought that the Greek of the NT was some special, heavenly Greek. But researchers found that the Greek of the NT is actually “koine” or common Greek. It was the language of the market, of the common person, not a special language at all.

Why do pastors, teachers, theologians, etc. want to study Greek and Hebrew? To achieve greater accuracy in understanding the text. We pay great attention to the language (grammar and syntax) of the Bible because through them we are able to better understand and interpret God’s Word.]

2. The Bible was influenced by the human authors’ backgrounds and personalities .

The Bible was composed over more than 1,600 years by over 40 different authors. Each author wrote from the context of his own vocation, circumstances, intellect, etc. Each of these elements influenced the final product.

God did not mechanically dictate the Scriptures to the human authors. Rather, He superintended or “carried along” the writers (2 Peter 1:21) without destroying their individual vocabularies, writing styles, etc. in such a way that the final product was exactly what He wanted.

God’s guidance of the human authors extended to the very words they wrote (1 Corinthians 2:13), not merely to their thoughts or ideas. Theologians refer to this as verbal inspiration.

[You may hear the expression “verbal, plenary inspiration.” This simply means that each and every word is fully inspired. Matt 5:18 indicates that the smallest details of the words of the text are preserved. ]

3. The Bible contains various writing styles .

Because the Bible ultimately has but one author, one might expect a consistent style of writing throughout. However, one finds many writing styles in Scripture. This is a further indicator of the human aspect of inspiration.

[The language and style of writing between authors sometimes differs widely. E.g., the styles/vocabularies of John and Paul differ widely.]

II. The Bible is Complete.

The word “ canonization ” refers to the process by which the individual books of the Bible came to be recognized as Scripture. The word “canon” literally means a “rule” or “standard.” In time, the word was commonly used to refer to the collection of inspired writings. The 66 books found in our Bibles were included in the canon because they met various rules or standards of canonicity set forth by the early church.

A. The Old Testament canon is complete.

1. God’s people collected the Old Testament books.

[Joshua] drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God.   Joshua 24:25 26

2. Christ confirmed the Old Testament books.

Jesus replied, “. . . this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.”   Luke 11:46 51

The arrangement of the 39 books of the Old Testament in Jesus’s day began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles. The deaths of Abel and Zechariah are recorded in Genesis and 2 Chronicles respectively. So, this was Jesus’s way of saying, “From the beginning to the end .” In this way, Jesus was confirming the boundaries of the Old Testament canon.

Christians have little difficulty recognizing which Old Testament books meet the standard for inclusion in the canon, seeing they have the words of Christ Himself   the standard.

B. The New Testament canon is complete.

1. Christ pre authenticated the New Testament books.

In Lesson Six, we learned that the apostles were uniquely chosen and commissioned by Christ to write the New Testament. As a result, their writings carried divine authority and, thus, were to be included in the canon.

2. God’s people recognized the New Testament books.

a. The apostles recognized their own writings as Scripture.

Paul recognized that his letters were inspired and expected his readers to recognize this as well.

If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.   1 Corinthians 14:37

“Scripture” is a technical term for those writings which believers recognized to be God’s Word. In the New Testament, it usually refers to the Old Testament (Luke 24:27 and 2 Timothy 3:15 16). However, Peter applies the term to Paul’s letters, showing that God’s people began to recognize the New Testament books as canonical shortly after their composition.

[Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.   2 Peter 3:16

  1. The church recognized the apostles’ writings as Scripture.

The early church applied several “ tests ” to determine which books were Scripture. These tests did not determine a book’s authority; rather, they simply helped the church to recognize such.

1) The church recognized books which had apostolic authority.

To be considered Scripture, a book must have been composed by an apostle or under the direction of an apostle (For example, Luke wrote under the direction of Paul.).

2) The church recognized books which were commonly accepted as authentic.

Since apostolic authority was the primary criterion for authenticity, it was only natural that the very churches the apostles established would readily accept the authenticity of their writings.

3) The church recognized books which were orthodox .

A book had to teach doctrine which was consistent with that of the other books of the Bible in order to be considered canonical.

[“Orthodox” literally means “straight,” and it refers to doctrine that is accepted or approved or correct. Something unorthodox is unapproved, different, odd, and/or incorrect.

Note: the Scriptures were authoritative the moment they were written. They were not recognized right away, tho.

The Apocrypha is not part of the canon because it does not meet the criteria. By the way, the 1611 KJV included the Apocrypha.]

Note: The canon of Scripture has been closed for nearly 1,900 years. John, the last of the apostles, died at the end of the first century A. D. shortly after writing the book of Revelation, which closed the canon.

III. The Bible is Preserved.

Not only has God used men to produce and compile His Word, He has also used them to maintain it. Theologians call this process preservation . God has preserved His Word providentially , not miraculously .

[Why do we draw a distinction between miraculous and providential preservation? Because miraculous describes a special, supernatural intervention by God beyond the normal state of affairs. If miraculous preservation were the case, we would expect to find no problems or errors with any Bible copies or versions. Unfortunately, that is not the case. No version of the Scripture is miraculously free from error. The miracle was in the inspiration, not in the preservation. Providential preservation stresses the fact that God maintained His Word through normal, every-day processes. Such processes may have introduced a certain number of mistakes or differences into various copies, which is what we find. Had God preserved the originals, perhaps that could have been called miraculous.]

A. The Old Testament is preserved.

1. Christ confirmed the preservation of the Old Testament.

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished   Matthew 5:18

One should note that Jesus’s comments regarding the extraordinary preservation of the Old Testament Scriptures were made at a time when no original manuscripts of the Old Testament existed! Jesus’s confidence in God’s preservation of the Bible extended to the copies that had been passed on for centuries.

[It’s interesting to note that Jesus and the apostles most likely used the Septuagint (LXX), which is quite corrupt in several places. Yet they had confidence in it as the Word of God. Thus, even if a version is not totally accurate, it can be considered Scripture.]

2. The apostles confirmed the preservation of the Old Testament.

The New Testament writers frequently quoted from the Old Testament, thereby showing their confidence in its accurate preservation. For example, in one New Testament passage, Paul quotes from no less than eight Old Testament passages:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1 3; 53:1 3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Psalm 5:9). “The poison of vipers is on their lips” (Psalm 140:3). “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Psalm 10:7). “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know” (Isaiah 59:7 8). “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Psalm 36:1).   Romans 3:10 18

B. The New Testament is preserved.

There are approximately 5,000 extant (known to exist) Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Comparison of these manuscripts confirms the amazing degree to which God has providentially preserved His Word.

Note: It is important to distinguish between “inspiration” and “preservation.” Inspiration deals with the original writings of the Old and New Testaments. Preservation deals with copies . Technically, the copies are not inspired. Rather, they derive inspiration as they accurately reflect the content of the originals. Therefore, it is incorrect to equate inspiration with a particular version of the Bible.

[There is a whole debate concerning which Greek manuscripts (of the New Testament) ought to be used or which are the best. Our English versions are based on different Greek manuscripts. This is why we see differences in translations. The differences between the Greek manuscripts are many, but they are relatively minor. Most of the differences are in spelling, word choice, and word order. Only about 40 of the differences are of any major significance, and none of these change the overall teaching of the Bible. As far as versions go, we recommend or use only a few, such as the KJV, NKJV, NIV, or NASB. Later lessons will deal with this issue more fully.]

Learning to Live It

1. As you are scanning the dial on your radio, you come across a sermon. The preacher’s topic is the inspiration of the Bible. During the sermon, the preacher describes God’s activity upon the human writer by saying, “God said to Paul, ‘Take a letter.'” Does this preacher’s illustration accurately reflect how inspiration took place? Why or why not?

no; God did not dictate the words to the human authors.

Later in the sermon, the preacher makes it clear that he believes that the particular version from which he is preaching is the only “inspired” version. What is wrong with the preacher’s assertion?

Versions are not inspired; only the originals are. Versions are valid/good to the degree that they conform to the originals.

2. A friend of yours is not a believer but has shown interest in religious issues and likes to talk with you about them. After coming across a book that says there are several lost writings of the New Testament, he comes to you for answers. What would you tell him?

Since God has not seen fit to providentially preserve them, we can safely conclude that these writings are not canonical. Any “lost” writings are not part of the canon.

3. The same friend says the same book claims that the writings we do have are not accurate because our translations are so far removed from the original writings. What do you tell him now?

How does the author know this–Has he seen the originals? Our copies are not distant from the originals, especially in the NT. Only a few years passed between the making of the originals and the oldest extant copies. Furthermore, textual criticism has shown that our translations are reliable and accurately reflect the originals to a remarkable degree. The quality and care of the copying process, plus the number of available manuscripts, yields a product that very closely reflects the originals, even if many years have passed between the original composition and the oldest extant copies. E.g., little difference exists between a copy of Isaiah from 9th century AD and one from 1st century BC found in Dead Sea caves.

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