In writing their inspired messages, several biblical authors saw fit to mention or cite books that would lend support to their historical claims. In the book of Ezra, over one-third of its contents are actually quotes from official legal documents. The question is raised, “if uninspired material is quoted in a supposedly infallible book, how does this effect the biblical understanding of inerrancy?”
On the surface it would seem that quoting flawed, or at least fallible, sources would cast a shadow of doubt on the truth of the Bible. Let’s explore what these citations or references do not imply. First, in quoting these sources the biblical writers and/or editors did not imply that books like The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and The Annotations on the Books of the Kings were separate vehicles of inspired revelation. When Jude makes reference to the Book of Enoch and The Bodily Assumption of Moses he is not telling us that we should find these books and include them into the canon of Scripture. Acknowledging that uninspired books that contain truth do in fact exist does not imply that we lack a complete canon and should therefore seek out these ‘revelations.’
Second, when we see a note directing our attention to a Book of Records of Nathan the Prophet it does not necessarily mean the inspired Writers agreed with everything in that uninspired source. The Book of Enoch contains several things that a biblically informed Christian would reject. But, as noted earlier, this does not stop an author from accepting a particular truth in a document. Paul, in Acts 17, made reference to the Greek philosopher Epimenides when he acknowledged that in God we “live and move, and have our being”, and that “we are His offspring”. Yet as we examine the actual work he cited, Epimenides was not referring to YHWH, the God of Israel, but of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek pantheon. Does this mean that Paul condoned pagan idol worship? No, of course not. Paul was simply confirming to the men of Athens that in our supreme Creator we owe all of our existence, though they substituted this Creator with Zeus.
Lastly, and typing together our first two points, when quoting outside sources the Prophets and Apostles claimed neither that those books where an authoritative rule of faith, nor were they infallible. Historical documents were cited simply to corroborate the truthfulness of what an inspired writer claimed. All these references were perfect, infallible uses of imperfect, fallible documents.
Yet, with these few notes having been made, we must now look to what actually was implied by the biblical Writers when they quoted from uninspired documents. First, if we are to define inerrancy by saying that the Bible is correct in all that it affirms, we must confess that these quotations taken from other sources are indeed correct, and reliable in conveying the reality which they dealt with. The entire concept of biblical inerrancy, when properly understood, is the natural, logical conclusion to the doctrine of biblical inspiration. The reasoning goes as follows:
- God is truth, and cannot tell any falsehood. (John 3:33, 17:3, 1 Jn. 5:20)
- All Scripture is inspired by God, and is the very source in which we find God speaking to us. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- Therefore, all Scripture is without error in everything it affirms, and correct in all it documents. (Ps.19:7, Isa. 65:16)
It is with this presupposition that we come to the texts in question.
Another point we must realize is that the writers of these particular texts knew that the resources they cited would hold quite a bit of weight with their readers. For example, when Ezra quotes at length from the letters of King Darius and King Artaxerxes he knew that the authority lent to his writing by official royal decrees would confirm his writings. Therefore, anyone contesting the authenticity of his writing could confirm them within the annals of royal decrees.
And lastly, it is worthy of mention that we must always keep in mind that the concept of biblical inerrancy does not imply that the canon was written in a vacuum. When authors such as Ezra or the writers of such books as 1 & 2 Kings and Chronicles were addressing the pressing issues of their day, they were not exempt from gathering source data much like we today do.
The chief difference between their research and our own is that God superintended their writings of biblical authors in such a way, through inspiration, that their citations and references were completely free from error and misguidance.
John Frame on three essential characteristics of Scripture:
Clarity. At the time of the Reformation, some Roman Catholics were saying that lay people should not read the Bible, since only people in the church hierarchy could properly understand it. The Reformers did not say that everything in the Bible is perfectly clear. But they did say that the basic message of salvation is sufficiently clear that anyone can understand it, either by reading it himself, or by using ordinary means of grace, such as talking to a pastor. By the way, the power of the word, its authority, and its clarity, form a triad that corresponds to the Lordship attributes. For in Deut. 30:11-14 and Rom. 10:6-8 the clarity of the word is based on the nearness of God to his people, the presence of God among his people.
Necessity. Necessity simply means that without God’s Word we have no relationship with him. Without his commands he is not our Lord, for the Lord is by definition one who gives authoritative commands to his people. And without his word, we have no authoritative promises either, so he cannot be our savior.
Sufficiency. Sufficiency means simply that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need [See Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6.]. We should not try to add to them, and we dare not subtract from them, since we live by every word that comes from God.
Scripture itself tells us not to add or subtract (Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Rev. 22:18-19). And it tells us clearly not to add human tradition to the word: that is, don’t put human tradition on the same level as God’s word, as the Pharisees did (Deut. 18:15-22, Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:1-9, Gal. 1:8-9, 2 Thess. 2:2). Human tradition is not a bad thing. But it is not God’s word. When we try to put it on the same level as God’s word, we are saying that God’s word is not enough, that it is insufficient.
This is true of all Scripture, both Old and New Testament. But there is also a special sense in which the New Testament gospel is sufficient. Just as Jesus’ death and resurrection are sufficient to save us, so the apostles’ message about Jesus is sufficient to give us all the blessings of Jesus’ salvation (2 Pet. 1:2-11, Hen. 1:1-3, 2:1-4). So we should not expect God to give us further revelation of the same authority as the Bible.
People sometimes say that Scripture is sufficient for theology, but not for other areas of life, like science, history, plumbing, politics, car repairs. But that idea misunderstands the sufficiency of Scripture. Remember always: Scripture is sufficient as the word of God. It gives us all the words of God we will ever need. So Scripture contains all the word of God we need for theology—but also for ethics, politics, the arts, plumbing and car repair.
Certainly for all these disciplines we need knowledge from outside Scripture too. That’s even true of theology. Theologians need, for example, to know the rules of Hebrew Grammar; but Scripture doesn’t give these to us. They need to know the history of the ancient world; but Scripture only gives us part of that history. So in order to use the Bible, we need to know things outside the Bible.
That’s also true in ethics. For example, the Bible doesn’t mention abortion. We have to learn what abortion is from extra-biblical sources. But Scripture does say some things about murder, and about unborn human life. When we bring the biblical principles together with our extra-biblical knowledge of what abortion is, it becomes pretty obvious that “thou shalt not murder” implies “thou shalt not abort.”
The basic point to be remembered here is that no kind of knowledge from outside the Bible is worthy to be added to Scripture. That includes the traditions of the Roman church, claims of contemporary prophets… and even the confessions and traditions of the Protestant denominations.
-John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord
John Frame makes the following subpoints about the word of God in his larger discussion on the subject in Salvation Belongs to the Lord:
Let me make several subpoints, beginning from the more obvious, moving to the less obvious:
- The word reveals God. Obviously, when God speaks, he reveals his mind, his will, his heart. According to Deut. 4:5-8, the nations around Israel learn what kind of God Israel has when they hear his word. The righteousness of God’s statutes and rules reveals the righteousness of God himself, and indeed his nearness to Israel, verse 7.
- Word and Spirit work together. We saw in 1 Thess. 1:5, that the word comes to us in power and in the Spirit. When the word works in power, the Spirit is right there working with it. That means that when the word is among us, God also is among us.
- God performs all his actions by speaking. There are several classes of divine actions mentioned in the Bible. These include God’s eternal plan, creation, providence (including miracle), and his judgments and blessings on creatures. These actions line up parallel to the lordship attributes. The eternal plan shows his lordship attribute of authority, creation and providence his control, and his judgment and blessing his presence. But my point here is that every one of these acts God performs by speaking, by his word. His eternal counsel is a form of speech (Ps. 33:11, Acts 2:23, 4:28), as is creation (Gen. 1:3, Ps. 33:6, John 1:3), providence (Ps. 148:8), judgment (Gen. 3:17-19, Matt. 25:41-43, John 12:47-48) and grace (Matt. 25:34-36, Rom. 1:16). So, again, you never find God without his word.
- God is distinguished from other gods by the fact that he speaks. The word is so important that it is the means by which Scripture distinguishes between him and idols. The idols are “dumb.” God, however, is by his nature word. See this contrast in Hab. 2:18-20, 1 Kings 18:24, 26, 29, Ps. 115:4-8, 135:15-18, 1 Cor. 12:2. As speech distinguishes God from pretenders to deity, it thereby characterizes his nature at a deep level.
- The persons of the Trinity are distinguished by their role in the divine speech. We usually define the Trinity in terms of a family: the Father and the Son; but when we do that it is hard to bring the Spirit into that particular metaphor. But Scripture also speaks of the Trinity using a linguistic metaphor: the Father is the speaker (Ps. 110:1, 147:4, Isa. 40:26), the Son the word (John 1:1-14, Rev. 19:13), and the Spirit is the breath that carries the word to its destination (Ps. 33:6, 2 Tim. 2:16). The words for “Spirit” in Greek and Hebrew mean “breath” or “wind.” When I speak to you, my breath pushes my words out of my mouth and begins an air current that goes to your eardrums. In the same way, in God, the Father speaks the Word, and the Spirit carries that Word so that it accomplishes its purpose, as we saw in 1 Thess. 1:5. So the word is so important to God’s nature that it can be used to define the Trinity.
- The speech of God has divine attributes: it is righteous (Ps. 119:7), faithful (Ps. 119:86), wonderful (Ps. 119:129), holy (2 Tim. 3:15), eternal (Ps. 119:89, 160), omnipotent (Gen. 18:14 [This verse reads literally, “No word of God is void of power.”] Isa. 55:11), perfect (Ps. 19:7). Only God has these attributes in total perfection. So the word is God.
- The word of God is an object of worship. In Psm. 56:4, David says, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” He repeats this praise for the word in verse 10 (cf. Ps. 119:120, 161-62, Isa. 66:5). This is remarkable, for only God is the object of religious praise. To worship something other than God is idolatrous. Since David worships the word here, we cannot escape the conclusion that the word is divine.
- The word is God, John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We usually use this passage to show the deity of Christ, and it is an excellent passage for this purpose, as we shall see in Chapter 10. But now I want you to see that this passage does not only identify Jesus with God. It also identifies God’s speech with God. The phrase “in the beginning” takes us back to Genesis 1. In that passage, the word was the creative word of God, the word that made the world. John 1:3 emphasizes the creative work of the word, “All things were made through him [that is, through the word], and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So the word that “was God” in verse 1 was, not only Jesus, as verse 14 clearly indicates (“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”), but also the speech of God commanding the light to come out of darkness in Gen. 1:3. Cf. 2 Cor. 1:20, Heb. 1:1-3, 1 John 1:1-3, Rev. 3:14, 19:13.
So the word is God, and God is the word. Where God is, the word is, and vice versa. God’s word is not only powerful and authoritative, it is the very presence of God in our midst. How can we understand this? We can think of God’s word, as John did in the first chapter of his gospel, as somehow identical with Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. So when God speaks to us, Jesus is there.
-John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord
[Scripture] is God’s word to the church…not merely a historical artifact of Israel’s religion. In the Bible’s pages, the church learns what to proclaim and how to live as a kingdom of priests, a holy people, and a light to the nations–to act justly, love mercy, and walk circumspectly. The church learns how to worship, pray, adore God, and confess sin.
The theologian should consider the Bible’s Source as inerrant and its teaching as infallible; should study the text for meaning rather than just as an account of the events recorded therein; should read the Old Testament as a unity, a product of the one Author; should read reverently, recognizing the authority of the text for the present day.”
Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology
This pretty much sums up the thesis of Frame’s Doctrine of the Word of God:
God’s speech to man is real speech. It is very much like one person speaking to another. God speaks so that we can understand him and respond appropriately. Appropriate responses are of many kinds: belief, obedience, affection, repentance, laughter, pain, sadness and so on. God’s speech is often propositional: God’s conveying information to us. But it is far more than that. It includes all the features, functions, beauty, and richness of language that we see in human communication, and more. …My thesis is that God’s word, in all its qualities and aspects, is a personal communication from him to us.
-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Word of God
Several notable theologians (not least N. T. Wright) claim that that biblical inerrancy is a peculiarly American doctrine. Some believe that a focus on inerrancy, as opposed to biblical infallibility (which I’ve addressed here), attracts skeptics and religious naysayers to search for ways to undermine the accuracy of the Bible. Perhaps there’s some truth to this last claim. It does make sense after all. The claim that one, and only one, collection of religious writings reflect the personal disclosure of a speaking God (and, moreover, that this collection of documents is error-free) is bound to tick off not a few champions of “tolerance.” But surely we shouldn’t shrug our shoulders at every doctrine non-Christians find unacceptable.
But why do American evangelicals spend so much time affirming inerrancy? Why would any Christian affirm inerrancy? And does biblical authority reduce to inerrancy? For some the answer is yes, but I think that’s reductionistic. Biblical authority flows the quality of Scripture as God-breathed. Since it is the Word of God written it therefore demands a response to its speech acts. This means Scripture demands a response to everything it says in all the ways it says it. Biblical authority entails we answer Scripture’s questions, laugh at its jokes, tremble at its threats, rejoice in its promises, and do as it commands. Authority cannot be reduced to an affirmation of inerrancy. Inerrancy is related to one aspect of biblical activity, stating propositions and making assertions. A robust doctrine of biblical authority teaches us to believe the Bible’s claims just as it teaches us to trust God’s promises.
Now if this is correct, and biblical authority is a larger and more robust concept than simple inerrancy, why make such a big deal over it? Ask yourself that question. Why place such a heavy emphasis on the Bible’s propositions rather than the its promises, threats, songs, or commands? The answer is straightforward:
If the propositions affirmed as true in the Bible are in fact false, all other biblical speech acts have no extra-textual importance.
Extra-textual importance, a fancy phrase for a crucial concept. Elsewhere I’ve defined the doctrine of inerrancy like this: When all the relevant facts are known, and when properly interpreted, Scripture never contradicts itself, not does it misrepresent the facts. Now theoretically, the Bible could be internally consistent (no book or statement contradicts another book or statement) and yet not be inerrant. Why? Because the narrative of the Bible (while internally harmonious, and literarily masterful) may not in fact make true statements of the extra-textual world, the world outside the text. Consider the amazing precision and harmony of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The Bible would make for great literature, but a poor foundation for Spirit-empowered obedience and development.
If the propositions of Scripture aren’t true there’s no comfort found in it’s promises. If the propositions of Scripture aren’t true there’s no reason to fear the Bible’s threats. If the propositions of Scripture aren’t true there’s no urgency to answers its demands.
Without affirming the truth of Scripture, all is lost, and their is little difference between our love and admiration for the Bible and that of Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Biblical authority incorporates more than inerrancy, but not less.
Here’s a fuller discussion on the topic from D. A. Carson:
“Churches and individual Christians devoted to the service of God often govern their lives by the standards of modern secular culture, rather than by the Word of God. They hear and speak about God, often with enthusiasm, but he makes little real difference to them. But how can it be that the Lord of heaven and earth makes no difference?”
-John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God
John Frame reflects on the objection that evangelicals worship the Bible, also known as ‘bibliolatry’:
The psalmists view the words of God with religious reference and awe, attitudes appropriate only to an encounter with God himself. The psalmist trembles with godly fear (Ps. 119:120; cf. Isa. 66:5), stands in awe of God’s words (Ps. 119:161), and rejoices in them (v. 162). He lifts his hands to God’s commandments (v. 48). He exalts and praises not only God himself, but also his “name” (Ps. 9:2; 34:3; 68:4). He gives thanks to God’s name (Ps. 138:2). He praises God’s word in Psalm 56:4,10. This is extraordinary, since Scripture uniformly considers it idolatrous to worship anything other than God. But to praise or fear God’s word is not idolatrous. To praise God’s word is to praise God himself.
Does this worship justify bibliolatry? The Bible, as we will see later, is God’s word in a finite medium. It may be paper and ink, or parchment, or audiotape or a CD-ROM. The medium is not divine, but creaturely. We should not worship the created medium; that would be idolatry. But through the created medium, we received the authentic word of God, and that word of God should be treated as if God were speaking it with his own lips. It should be received with absolute trust, obedience, and, yes, worship.
Opponents of evangelicalism commonly say that it is idolatrous to accept any human word as having divine authority. Scripture, however, teaches that we should accept the divine-human words on its pages precisely as God’s own. Evangelicals are often too sensitive to the charge of bibliolatry. That charge is illegitimate, and it should not motivate evangelicals to water down their view of Scripture.
-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Word of God, 67-68
John Frame, in Doctrine of the Word of God, explains how one should maintain a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in light of the difficulty of ‘problem passages’:
Now, when many readers look at Scripture, it appears to them to contain errors. So many writers have urged that we should not derive our doctrine of Scripture merely from its teachings about itself, but that we should take into account the phenomena. And if we take the phenomena seriously, they tell us, we will not be able to conclude that Scripture is inerrant. This approach is sometimes called and inductive approach…
I believe the inductive method, so describe, is a faulty method for determining this character of Scripture. Of course, Scripture contains “difficulties,” problems, apparent errors. But what role should these play in our formulation of the doctrine of Scripture? It is important to remember that all doctrines of the Christian faith are beset by problems. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty seems in the view of many readers to conflict with the responsibility of human beings, and the apparent contradiction has led to many theological battles. The doctrine of the Trinity says that God is both three and one, and the relation between his threeness and his oneness is not easy to put into words. When speaking of Christ, we face the problem that he is both God and man, both eternal and temporal, both of omniscient and limited in his knowledge. Would anyone argue that because of these problems we should not confess that God is sovereign, that man is responsible, that God is three and one, that Jesus is divine and human?
In his article, “One reason I believe the Scriptures are inerrant” author Kevin D. Kennedy shares a story that helped him in his commitment to the truthfulness of Scripture. The article is short and I would encourage you to read it. Here are what I thought were the best 2 paragraphs of the piece:
…In order for me to claim that the Scriptures contain errors, I must first claim inerrancy for my own interpretation. The other alternative is to conclude that I might be mistaken in my interpretation of the text and it is therefore impossible for me to conclude that this text has an error until I have inerrant knowledge of the biblical languages, the historical background, other events not recorded by this particular narrator, any unique idioms that might have been employed by this biblical writer, as well as inerrant knowledge of the political, social, legal, cultural, familial, geographical, topological, and ethnic setting of the text — just to name a few.
Given these two alternatives, it is clear that the decision of the interpreter is ultimately a spiritual decision. Either I claim omniscience for my own interpretation or I humbly admit that my own knowledge is limited and trust that God will never mislead me in His Word.
Now let’s define 2 crucial terms for this discussion: error and contradiction. Clarifying these terms is absolutely essential for understanding inerrancy. Those who deny inerrancy believe either the Bible claims things that aren’t true, or that some passages of the Bible contradict other passages of the Bible. If it turns out that 1)”problem passages” do not affirm things that aren’t untrue, and 2) many who deny inerrancy are working with an inaccurate definition of ‘contradiction’, anti-inerrancy arguments lose much of their bite.
An error is a failure to relate accurate information due either to confusion, ignorance, or deceit. A contradiction occurs whenever we affirm two logically inreconciliable concepts at the same time and in the same sense (A and not-A). Many of the objections to inspiration (by unbelievers) and inerrancy (by both unbelievers and limited inerrantist Christians) based on supposed errors misunderstand what an error is. Remember this important principle:
Differences of perspective do not necessarily imply contradiction.
Theological Foundations for Inerrancy. So there are several possible causes for errors: confusion, deceit, or ignorance. That is to say, writers of the Bible may have gotten their facts mixed up, they could have intentionally desired to manipulate their readers, or perhaps they lacked vital information regarding an important point they wanted to make. But once we recognize that God is the ultimate author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21), we realize that these causes of error do not plague God. God is neither confused (He not only knows but determines all facts), deceitful (Titus, 1:2, 1 John 2:21), nor ignorant (knowing all things). God is a God of truth (1 Jn. 1:5). The human authors claimed not to be deceiving their readers (Gal. 1:20, 2 Pet. 1:16), and to have checked all their facts carefully (Lk. 1:1-4).
The inerrancy syllogism. A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. In deductive logic, if the major and minor premises are true the conclusion cannot fail to be true, it is logically certain.
- Major premise: The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- Minor premise: God cannot lie, deceive, or make errors (Titus 1:2)
- Conclusion: Therefore the Bible cannot lie, deceieve or make errors (2 Sam. 7:28, Prov. 30:5; cf. Ps. 12:6; 119:42; John 17:17).
Here is the syllogism, taken from explicit passages of Scripture, which if correct assures that inerrancy is a valid inference of biblical teaching.
Posted by bkilman
I’m currently having a conversation with a former student (I’m a Youth Pastor) who has some conflicting views about the Christian faith. My student, and I count him as a friend too, has questions concerning what Jesus taught. He wrote to me, “We can debate so many different aspects of Christianity but what seems to be the most misunderstood part of the entire religion is its main message, which is peace and love. Christ died so that we would be forgiven for our sins, but that is not the main point of Christianity. We need to focus on what he taught, not how he died.”
In response to his email, which questioned the authority of the Bible, the necessity of Christ’s death, and the existence of Hell, I am writing about what Jesus taught. Below are my comments on what Jesus teaches about the authority of the Bible as a guide for life.”
What Jesus teaches about the Bible.
1. Jesus taught that the Old Testament is the authoritative and inerrant word of God.
Jesus believed, and taught, that the Bible is inspired by God, without error, clear, and sufficient for knowledge and life. All of his teachings assumed that the Old Testament was the authoritative word of God the Father (I’m using the term ‘Father’ because that is what Scripture uses in talking about the first person of the trinity, not in any masochistic meaning or sense). In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus teaches,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
Jesus referred to dozens of Old Testament people and events and always treated the Old Testament history as historically accurate. He quoted from Genesis as God’s authoritative word when he said,
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and he said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).
Jesus assumed that the creation story was true, and he also quoted freely from Old Testament narration as words that God himself “said”. Often Jesus’ teaching depends upon the truthfulness of the Old Testament account. Here are a few examples where Jesus’ teaching entirely depends on the accuracy of the Old Testament: Matthew 5:12; Matthew 11:23-24; Matthew 12:41-42; Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 4:25-27; Luke 11:50-51; John 8:56-58. Jesus viewed the Old Testament the same way the Old Testament viewed itself: as the divinely inspired, inerrant, word of God sufficient for all of life and knowledge.
2. Jesus taught that his teachings are the authoritative and inerrant word of God.
Jesus taught that not only was the Old Testament authoritatively inspired by God, but also that his teaching was inspired by God and was a fulfillment of Old Testament promises (Matthew 26:54; Mark 8:31). Throughout his life Jesus used scripture to guide his life: in resisting temptation to sin (Matthew 4:1-11), to settle arguments (Matthew 19:1-12; Matthew 22:39; Matthew 27:46; Mark 7:1-13; Luke 10:25-26), and he died quoting scripture (Matthew 27:46 cross-reference with Psalm 22:1). After his resurrection he explained how the scripture taught about all that he had done and that had to happen to him to some disciples as they walked along the road and to his disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-17, 44-47). Jesus saw his teaching as no less inspired by God than the Old Testament. He taught with authority that distinguished him from other teachers and he interpreted the Law on his own authority rather than relying on rabbinic tradition (Matthew 5:21-48). He described his teaching as having the same permanence as the Old Testament in Matthew 24:35. Jesus viewed both the Old Testament and his own teaching as the very word of God.
3. Jesus taught that the New Testament teachings are the authoritative and inerrant word of God.
Jesus took scripture to be the authoritative word of God upon which he based his entire life and teaching. The gospel accounts of his life and the New Testament witness by the Apostles were direct results of Jesus’ giving his disciples authority and power to proclaim the authoritative and inerrant word of God. (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-13, 14-40). These apostles were given power and authority to proclaim God’s very word in writing and in witness (Mark 3:13-19; John 16:12-14; Acts 26:16-18; I Corinthians 2:12-13). These 12 Apostles wrote the New Testament; Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Pastoral letters , and Revelation. Matthew and John were disciples, John Mark, who wrote Mark was an attendant of Peter, a disciple of Jesus, Luke was a physician and close associate of Peter’s, Paul was an apostle and wrote 2/3 of the NT in his letters and epistles, Peter wrote 1 & 2 Peter, John the disciple also wrote Revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos. Jesus taught that he had inspired these men and given them divine revelation to record orally and to be preserved in written form for those of us who would see the Word of God later (John 20:29; 2 Timothy 3:16).
We can have favorite Bible passages and trust that they are the truth because we trust Jesus’ teachings. Jesus teaches that the Bible is authoritative and accurate in its entirety. Either he is a liar who is deceiving us with false teachings about God and life, or he is crazy and believes this stuff when it is not true, or he is who he said he is (the Son of God), and his teachings are what he said they are (the very authoritative and inerrant word of God). Christians believe his teachings matter and that he is who he said he is, and therefore, God’s word is authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient for knowledge and life.
A frequent dismissal of the Christian faith comes in this fashion, “I can’t believe the Bible to be the word of God, because after all, it was written by men.” Many have run into this objection at some point in their evangelistic efforts. How should we respond? Fortunately, as common as this objection may be, a proper response is not difficult to provide. There are various approaches to handling this objection. Let us walk through several of them, one by one.
First, my father has the habit of responding to this objection by replying, “Of course the Bible was written by men, would you have preferred monkeys write it?” I’ve always enjoyed that reply. It does make a strong point. If Christians are right, and God is invisible and without physical extension in space (i.e. Spirit), how is it that God is to write the Bible Himself? Theoretically, the god of Mormonism could have written upon the golden plates found my Joseph Smith all by his own hand. But this is not the God orthodox Christians are arguing for.
Secondly, the statement, “I can’t take the Bible to be the word of God, because it was written by men,” is not an objection. The person uttering these words may perceive them as a refutation of biblical authority. But, in fact, they are merely a statement of what the unbeliever cannot subjectively accept. I believe I understand the intention behind this objection, but we must make the non-believer aware that this statement is a display of their psychological state, and has no bearing on whether or not Scripture is God’s revealed truth.
Third, we should ask the unbeliever whether they would prefer the Bible to be written by the very hand of God Himself (i.e. by way of some physical manifestation, akin to the case of the first pair of tablets containing the Ten Commandments). If their reply is in the affirmative we may respond, “But why would God have to do that?” This approach to authority, if consistently acted out, would result in potentially dangerous actions, at least for them. Suppose the President of the United States summons this individual to the Pentagon because the CIA is suspicious of their current activity. Would this person ignore the Presidential command simply because the letter was not hand-written and personally signed by the President himself? What about jury duty? No, naturally we understand that the means by which someone communicates to us does not necessarily have to be absolutely unmediated and direct.
Forth, I believe the intention of the unbeliever’s objection is meant to convey the idea that since men are fallible, and the Bible was penned by men, therefore it must have errors and therefore is like any other religious book. Fair enough. But, we must ask, “Is it absolutely essential to human nature that everything that comes out of our mouths (or from their pens) must be false?” Of course not. Though mankind may be fallen, fragile, and fallible, not every word we utter is false. People make true statements all the time, do they not? For example: my name Joseph Emmanuel Torres and my birthday is November 7th. That is a true, completely 100 percent error-free statement. Imagine the kind of life that the objector must live in order to be consistent with this mindset. They could not trust anything that has ever been told to them, simply because we fallible humans have said it! Imagine their mother telling them as a child, “Son, I love you.” Lies! All lies! How could the objector’s mother be trusted, after all, to err is human. Naturally, I am well aware of the fact that the unbeliever does not live this way. Daily they watch the news for the weather, follow their Doctor’s instructions, and so on. But the objection seems to imply that simply because humans penned the Bible that it must not be trusted.
Lastly, we come to the strongest defeater to this objection. This objection simply assumes that which it ought to prove; it begs the question. When they state, “the Bible was written by men” the unbeliever of course implies that men can fail in total accuracy. This is true, given the qualifications above. But this ignores the Bible’s own testimony of its perfection and accuracy. Scripture says that God the Holy Spirit guided and directed the entire process so that the very words that the authors freely chose were perfectly preserved from error (2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore, the words that they penned were nonetheless the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Much like Christ the living Word, the written word is both divine and human. To ignore the Scripture’s testimony regarding its inspiration and accuracy is in essence to say “the Bible isn’t true because the Bible isn’t true!” How trivial. It’s a narrowly circular argument, all it serves to do is to show that the unbeliever has no true objection to Scripture; at least they haven’t given us one. They simply do not want to submit to the voice of their Lord!