Is the Bible a “Human Book”?

“I begin with the Bible as a collection of human books, so I begin with its humanity. In my observation a lot of religious people begin with, ‘This is God’s holy book. Why did God write it down this way?’, instead of, ‘This is a human book.’” (Rob Bell) The author of the previous statements is a well known writer who has made his fame denying basic truths of Christianity.

If the Bible is first a human book, then it has to be viewed as a collection of religous thoughts that changed with the culture and grew as its authors became more sophisticated. If the Bible is first God’s book, then it must be treated as God’s revelation to man. If the Bible is God’s book then it has to be evaluated and understood on the basis of the claims it makes for itself. What does the Bible say? Does it claim to be primarily Divine or human in origin? Is the Bible a collection of great religious teachings or revelation from God?

The Bible claims to be God’s book. Hundreds of times the Bible uses phrases like, “The Lord said”, “God said”, “God spake” and “The Lord Commanded”. Thousands of verses in the Bible claim to be direct quotes of God. This does not include the hundreds of verses that are direct quotes of Jesus. Even those books which do not claim to quote the audibly spoken words of God claim to be the truth of God given for His people. The books of the Bible claim to be God’s Words. (Exodus 20:1; Isaiah 30:8-9; Jeremiah 30:2) Biblical authors also claimed that other authors were writing the words of God. (Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 7:12) Jesus Himself said that all the Old Testament is the Word of God. Luke 24:26-27, 44) The Bible claims to be of Divine origin, the words of God given to men through the prophets and apostles. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21)

Men were the human agents who wrote down God’s truth. God used the personalities and abilities of these men to write His Word. Every book of the Bible bears the marks of its human authors. The apostles and prophets wrote in a cultural context to real people in actual places at a specific time of history. However, these men were not writing according to their understanding and opinions of God’s nature. They were writing what God revealed.

God’s revelation through men was progressive. He did not reveal everything about Himself at once. He did not deposit on earth a completed book. He gradually taught men who recorded in writing His Word for His people. (Exodus 17:14) After man sinned, God began to reveal, a little at a time, His plan for man’s salvation. As sinful man forgot God, God began to teach, a little at a time, the truths men forgot. The Bible is not the record of man’s evolution in religion. The Bible is God’s progressing revelation of Himself, a revelation that culminates in the incarnation of God the Son. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The Bible is clear about its claims. It is God’s Word, true and accurate in all it teaches. The Bible is not accurate in light of the cultural views or scientific opinions of its day, or accurate in respect to the spiritual lessons in view. The Bible is absolutely accurate. The events described in the Bible are genuine historical events that happened like the Bible describes. The source of this accuracy is God. For example, Jesus told the disciples He would send them the Holy Spirit who would bring to remembrance all the things Jesus had said to them. (John 14:26) God the Spirit was the active agent ensuring the historical accuracy of the gospels. The gospels’ records of Jesus teachings are certainly what He taught because the Spirit brought them to the disciples memory. All the facts of the Bible are accurate because God revealed them to men and secured the accurate transmission of truth.

The Bible is clear about its origins. It is from God. Treating the Bible as a human book denies its validity as the Word of God. Other approaches sound sophisticated and smart, but are really nothing more than the old deception of Satan, “Hath God said?” Yes. God has said. The record of what God said to men is recorded in the Bible.

Why does the Bible have two creation accounts?

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

The famous opening line of the Bible summarizes God’s creation of the universe. The first two chapters of Genesis record the creation of everything. Genesis 1 describes the creation of light, dry land, oceans, plants, the sun, the moon, stars, fish, birds, animals and mankind.

Genesis 2 tells of God’s seventh day rest from the creation work. The second chapter then goes on to describe how God formed Adam out of dirt, planted a garden in Eden, placed Adam in the garden, instructed Adam to name the animals and then made Eve.

The differences between Genesis 1 and 2 form the basis of claims that Genesis contains two separate and different creation accounts. The perceived contradictions between the two chapters are presented as evidence that Scriptures is not a reliable historical record. How do Christians, especially those who believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old, explain the problems between these two chapters?

Like many supposed contradictions in the Bible the problems of Genesis 1 and 2 are not problems at all. The differences between the first two chapter of Genesis are not contradictions. Genesis 1 provides the overview of all of God’s creative work. Genesis 2 focuses on God’s work to create man and a suitable habitation for mankind. Genesis 2 adds detail to the record of man’s creation.

At this point a reader may object that Genesis 2 says God caused the trees to grow after He made Adam. Genesis 2:8 answers the objection. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden.” The trees growing in Genesis 2 are only the trees in the Garden of Eden not all trees on earth. God planted the garden by causing specific trees to grow out of the ground where He wanted them to grow. God could have made the garden by transplanting trees from other places on earth. He did not. The trees He desired to be in the garden of Eden He commanded to spring up in their proper place. God’s creating trees in the Garden of Eden on the sixth day does not contradict the Genesis 1 description of God creating plant life on day three.

What about when Genesis 2 says that God made the animals and birds after He made Adam? Genesis 1 says all the flying creatures were made on the fifth day of creation, and it says God made the animals before He made man. How could that be true if they were created after Adam? In the King James Version Genesis 2:18-19 is translated, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” At first glance it looks like Genesis 2 is describing consecutive events: God made Adam, and then God put him in the garden, and then God said it is not good for man to be alone , and then God formed the birds and beasts. This is not the case. The word translated formed is expressing an action that had occurred in the past. Genesis does not say, “And then God formed every beast of the field.” Genesis says, “And God had formed every beast of the field . . .” The action had already occurred before God created Adam. God brought the already created animals to Adam for him to name.

Genesis does not contain two creation different accounts. Genesis 1 and 2 complement one another by providing additional details about what God has done. The creation account gives the wide angle view of the whole work of creation and then zooms in to describe specific events surrounding the creation of man.

What is Inspiration

The Bible is authoritative in all Christian religions. Jesus taught His followers to search the Scriptures because they teach of eternal life. (John 5:39) The Bible claims to be the Word of God, inspired by God and transmitted through holy men. The claims of the Bible should not lightly be brushed aside. If the Bible’s claims are true then it is the only way by which men will receive the knowledge that brings salvation.

The nature of the Bible is of the highest importance. The Bible specifically claims to be inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed”. What does this mean? How inspiration is defined affects how one sees the Bible as the Word of God. The nature of inspiration directly impacts the nature of the Bible.

As it is commonly used inspiration describes the process of stirring a person to an action, decision or expression. A sunset inspires someone to write a song. Love inspires a man to write a poem for his wife. The courage of another inspires a young lady to aspire to great things. This understanding of inspiration is not what is meant by the statement, “the Bible is inspired by God.”

The authors of the Bible were not moved by their contemplation of God to pen great spiritual truths.The greatness of God did not motivate certain men to the highest form of theological self-expression.

The Biblical teaching of inspiration is summed up in 2 Peter 1:21, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” God directed men to write His Word. The words of the Bible are the words of God written through the instrument of Godly men. The nature of inspiriation is such that the Bible can accurately be described as the words of men and as the Word of God.

For example, the words of the Psalms are David’s and God’s. Acts 1:16 says exactly this. “This Scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake.” David knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through Him. His last words to Israel are recorded in 2 Samuel 23, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by men, His word was in my tongue.”

Biblical inspiration does not mean the authors of the Bible acted as robots who mechanically recorded what God dictated. Biblical inspiration teaches that God used the character, personality, ability and intellect of each author to pen His Words. God worked through the mind of men, but the Bible is not limited to what the men could have known. God revealed truth to His messengers. Whether they wrote prophecy, history or the nature of humanity the Biblical authors words are accurate and untainted by error.

Though the Bible was written by men in the unique style of each man every single word of the Bible is exactly what God wanted written. God did not inspire general concepts and leave the authors to express them as best they could. God worked in the prophets and apostles so they wrote exactly what He wanted. Every word of the Word of God is of God.

The key truth of the doctrine of inspiration is this: everything in the Bible is from God. Though the books are clearly written by individuals every part, every word, every line, every sentence, every paragraph and every book is God’s perfect Word written down by men under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Are the words in the Bible written in red more important?

The first red letter edition of the Bible was printed in 1901. The first red letter New Testament was printed just 2 years before in 1899. The idea to print the words of Jesus in red is credited to Louis Kopsch. He was the editor of a Christian magazine and committed to the distribution of the Word of God. He hit upon the red letter idea in hopes of encouraging people to read the Bible. The first red letter editions printed in red the words spoken by Jesus and any passages in the Old Testament that Jesus later quoted. Today most red letter Bibles only print in red direct quotations of Jesus.

The majority of Bibles today are red letter editions. With large blocks of red ink the four gospels have a distinctive appearance. An unfortunate side effect of this printing innovation is readers who treat the red letters as more important than the rest of the Bible. The red letters become the lens through which the rest of the Bible is interpreted. In cases where there appears to be contradiction, the words of Jesus are given the priority in resolving the contradiction.

This seems reasonable. The words in red are direct quotes from Jesus. The rest of the Bible is what God said through men. Shouldn’t we give priority to the words of Jesus?

While the argument sounds good because it gives Jesus the most important place, it misunderstands the nature of inspiration. The doctrine of inspiration teaches that the entire Bible are the words of the Son of God. The things Hosea wrote are no less God’s Word than the things Jesus said. Inspiration is described in 2 Peter 1:21, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

Biblical inspiration refers to the process by which God’s Words were written down by God’s prophets and God’s apostles. The human authors of the Bible wrote exactly what God told them to write. This does not mean God dictated to them what to write. The authors of the Bible were not like secretaries typing up a letter as dictated by the boss. God spake His Word using the personality and intellect of the men. The writing style of Paul is very different from that of Peter. God used these men in such a way that they wrote in their own style but still wrote exactly what God intended to be written.

All of the Bible claims to be the very words of God. How many times does the Bible say, “The Lord said”? Are the quotes of God the Son on the earth less important than the quotes of God the Father from heaven?

Jesus Himself spake the words of the Old Testament as if they were as authoritative over Himself. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness He responded by quoting the Old Testament. Jesus was showing that the Word of God was the authority over His life. He did not assert His own superiority, but declared His humble obedience to the Bible.

Jesus quoted the Old Testament in His own life. While on the cross Jesus cried out the words of David from Psalm 22. The words of David were prophetic of Jesus. Are those words more true than the rest of the Psalms because Jesus said them?

The Bible cannot be split into various parts with some more important than the others. The Bible is all the Word of God, equally true and important no matter who is being quoted, or it is not. Emphasizing any section as greater than the rest is a dangerous path which inevitably compromises the authority and perfection of the Bible.

Is the Bible Accurate in its Predictions?

The claims of the Bible provide an ample basis on which to test Scriptures’ reliability. Possibly the greatest avenue for verifying the veracity of Scripture is in prophecy. No other religious book in the world contains the amount of future telling contained in the Bible. The vast number of prophecies in the Bible provide abundant opportunity to determine if the Bible is trustworthy.

The standard for testing Biblical prophecy is set by the Bible itself. Deuteronomy 18:22 sets the bar as it can be set. If a prophet claims to be speaking the Word of God his prophesies must be completely accurate. If the prophecy fails just once then the prophet and his message is not of God. Since the Bible claims to be of God it must be right all the time. Have the prophecies of the Bible failed even one time?

The Bible contains many fulfilled prophecies. These prophecies are often very specific in their nature. For example, the prophecies of Jesus birth tell of his family (He would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David). They tell of his birth place (Micah 5:2) They tell of the tragic events surrounding Jesus’ birth (Jeremiah 31:15) The Bible tells when Jesus would be born. The Bible foretells Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding His death. It prophesies the kind of death He would suffer, the abuse He would take, His betrayal, His burial and His resurrection.

The Bible contains specific prophecies about the rise of kings and kingdoms. The Bible prophesies the defeat of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The Bible prophesies how long the people of Judah would be captive in Babylon. It tells of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the year when the rebuilding would take place. The Bible foretells the rise of the Persian empire, the reign of Cyrus and his role in rebuilding Jerusalem. Through the prophet Daniel God revealed that Medo-Persia would overthrow the Babylonian empire and then would itself be overthrown by the Greek Empire. Scripture tells of the destruction of Edom, Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh. All happened just as Scriptures foretold.

The complete list of Biblical prophecies fulfilled cannot be given in a brief article. Over 300 specific prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled in his first coming. Dozens of specific prophecies about Israel and the other ancient nations have all been fulfilled. Many of the prophecies are very specific. The huge number of Biblical prophecy fulfilled is more than coincidence. The Bible is exactly what it claims to be, the Word of God.

How can I find out more about the people in the Bible?

The Bible leaves out a lot of personal details. Peter was married but did he have any kids? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Were any of the other apostles married? Did they have families? God’s Word is mostly silent on these things. How can we find out more about the lives of the people in the Bible?

The Bible is silent on many personal details because it’s purpose is not historical or biographical but theological. Any details provided are incidental to the truth being communicated. Biographical details always serve the purpose of teaching greater theological truths. God is not interested in satisfying our curiosity about the home life of the Biblical characters. He is communicating that which is necessary for people to come to salvation and for Christian’s to live lives pleasing to Him.

Unfortunately historical details about the people of the Bible are almost impossible to find. Some particulars can be found in the writings of the early church Fathers. Some of these men lived in the first hundred years after the apostles and a couple were personally acquainted with the apostles themselves.

Ancient church historians, like Eusebius, provide additional details about the lives of the apostles. The Works of Josephus provide a generally reliable historical perspective of events in Israel around the time of the beginning of the church. Some church traditions probably give truthful accounts of what happened to the apostles. The best resource is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which tells of the death of the apostles and other ancient Christians.

Care needs to be taken when looking for more information about the people in the Bible. The things passed down through history and tradition are not necessarily accurate. Because a book talks about the apostles or Biblical people does not mean the book is accurate. Hold loosely to any extra-Biblical facts about Biblical characters.

Be especially suspicious of the books known as the gnostic gospels. Some of them claim to be first hand accounts of the early life of Jesus but they are, at best, questionable sources of information. They were written several generations after Jesus and have the definite agenda of promoting the false teaching of gnosticism.

Be careful of modern “scholarly” books offering to give new information about Jesus or the disciples. Many modern books that talk about Bible history are written by people who have already decided the Bible is not true. The goal of many of these books is not to search out the truth, but to convince the reader of the author’s opinion. Whether they be written by popular fiction authors or by degreed professors, be careful to not confuse propaganda with truth.

In the end, we only have one source that is certain and accurate about Jesus and His followers. That source is the Bible. The biographical details of the people in the Bible are interesting but not vital to rightly understanding the truth of God’s word. Learn more of the history, traditions and culture of Bible times and people that you may better understand the great truths taught in Scriptures.

How is the Old Testament relevant to Christians today?

Those with a basic familiarity with the Bible know it is divided into two portions- the Old Testament and the New Testament. For many Christians the Old Testament poses problems and challenges. The Old Testament is obviously written about and to the Israelites. How are these ancient Jewish books relevant to American Christians today?

The New Testament mentions several particular benefits of the Old. The stories of the Old Testament are examples and admonitions to modern day Christians (1 Corinthians 10:11). The stories of the Old Testament teach the blessings of obedience to God and the dangers of disobedience. The Old Testament is a treasure trove of truth lived out. Except for the gospels the New Testament is mostly concerned with doctrine and application. The Old Testament gives stories of the people of God that teach Christians today how to live.

The Old Testament was written for our learning to give Christian’s hope. (Romans 15:4) The rich doctrines of the Old Testament encourage believers to endure and they give comfort in difficulties.The Old Testament gives many examples of faithful men and women that encourage believers to be faithful today. The Old Testament shows how the saints of old dealt with problems and trusted in their God.

The Old Testament points to Jesus. (Luke 24:27) On the road to Emmaus Jesus taught two of His disciples what the Old Testament said about Himself. Jesus’ teaching points to the vast body of material in the Old Testament that describes the work of the Savior. The work of Jesus did not end with His death and resurrection. His work will continue until all the promises of the Messiah’s kingdom are fully accomplished. Revelation reveals some details of this kingdom, but it is the Old Tesetament that gives a fuller picture of the reign of the Messiah.

The Old Testament is profitable for doctrine, correction, reproof and instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16) For example, the Old Testament is the primary source for our doctrine of God. The Old Testament vividly displays the person, work and character of God. Through the histories, the commands, the psalms and the proverbs the reader is given a picture of the nature of God, particularly of God the Father, as He works in the world and with His people. The theology of the Old Testament is taught through proposition and experience. The proposition that the Lord is holy becomes plain when God destroys Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire. The proposition that God is merciful becomes real when He repeatedly delivers rebellious Israel from her captors. The Old Testament is a practical theology that teaches through living illustration.

Paul says in Romans 4:24 and in 1 Corinthians 9:10 that the Old Testament was written for our sakes. The early church only had the Old Testament for at least the first fifteen years. Though they had the teaching and preaching of the apostles the only written Word of God available to the earliest church was the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written to Israel and it was written for us.

Who is Jehosophat and why did he jump?

Though it is no longer common every once in a while you may hear someone say, “jumping Jehosophat!”. The exclamation has an amusing sound and serves as a useful expression of surprise or frustration. The hopping human of exclamatory fame is taught about in the Bible. Jehoshophat was king over the nation of Judah 850 years before Jesus was born. After the death of King Solomon the nation of Israel split. Most of the nation followed the rebellious leader Jeroboam and they continued to be known as Israel. Two tribes followed the leadership of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and became known as Judah. Many years later Solomon’s great, great grandson Jehoshophat became king over Judah. His story can be found in 1 Kings 22 but it doesn’t say anything about him jumping.

The history behind the origin and popularity of the phrase is not certain. The most plausible explanation seems to be that the phrase is slang that came into popularity during the 1800’s. To avoid breaking the third commandment by taking God’s name in vain people would insert into their exclamations an innofensive word instead of “God” or “Jesus”. Gosh, golly and gee serve a similar purpose today. The Biblical name Jehoshophat became a substitute for Jesus. The alliterated phrase caught on and is still with us a hundred and fifty years later.

This whimsical question reminds us how much the English language has been influenced by the Bible. Dozens of familiar phrases have their roots in the Bible. A few examples are:
– Money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10- the Biblical quote is acutally, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
– By the skin of your teeth (Job 19:10)
– A little bird told me (Ecclesiastes 10:20)
– To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3, “Turn, turn, turn” was added by the Byrds)
– The blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:13-14)
– Cast the first stone (John 8:7)
– An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Matthew 5:38)
– A fly in the ointment (Ecclesiasts 10:1)
– Go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41)
– The straight and narrow (Matthew 7:14)
– The apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2)
– The writing on the wall (Daniel 5)
– A thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7)
– Wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)
– Don’t cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)
– Eat, drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15; Luke 12:19)
– Give up the ghost (Genesis 25:8; Mark 15:39)
– The ends of the earth (Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 67:7)
and many, many more!

At one time the Bible was familiar to most Americans. Public schools used the BIble in their reading and writing curriculum. Many families read the Bible on a regular basis. The well educated were very familiar with the Bible, and the common man knew enough of the Bible for it to become part of the culture. Though the twentieth century saw the American culture lose its familiarity with the Bible, the Bible continues to influence our lives and language in ways that are sometimes surprising.

Do people not believe the Bible because of a lack of evidence?

Today’s essay is a follow up to the article I posted Wednesday and to some of the replies given to that article. One commenter said, “repeating a story is not going to convince an atheist to start believing it.” I agree. One who has rejected the Bible is not likely to suddenly start believing because of a restatement of the Biblical stories. Should Christians seek to find proofs that will conclusively show the Bible to be true and dependable?

Many proofs of Christianity can be shown, and proofs have been given over and over again. Evidences can be given, but is that the real issue? Do those who reject the Bible refuse to believe because the evidence is not convincing? As I said in the previous article, lack of information is not the problem. Nor is lack of evidence the problem. The reason for unbelief is simple. Unbelievers start from the presupposition that the claims of the Bible are not true.

Everyone brings a personal bias to truth claims and the supporting evidences offered. Evidence is always filtered through the hearer’s own worldview. Those who assert that truth can be discovered only through naturalistic means are expressing a presupposition about truth. Naturalism presupposes there is no spiritual agency at work in this world. It presupposes the absence of a Creator, a Divine plan or an eternal purpose. No one examines evidence in a completely impartial fashion. Every evidence is viewed from the foundational assumptions of the viewer. As a result, God is not proven or disproven based upon increased evidence or a recitation of the facts

Those who refuse to believe the Bible will not believe regardless of what evidences are presented to them. This is declared in Luke 16. Jesus tells of a rich man who dies and goes to hell. He asks Abraham to send one back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham respond, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man says his brothers will not believe the Bible. Abraham replies, “Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Even the most irrefutable evidence of Divine power will not convince those who have refused to believe the truth of the Bible. This is born out further in the life of Jesus. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the Pharisees response to the undeniable miracle was to plot the death of Jesus in attempt to prevent others from believing. When Jesus rose from the dead the priests knew He had been restored to life but they bribed the Roman guards to spread the story that the disciples had stolen His body. The evidence did not change the heart. Those who refuse to believe, will not be persuaded by the most convincing evidence.

From the human perspective the repetition of the Bible will not change the presuppositions of another. Yet there is no hope for faith apart from the Word of God. True faith is only produced by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person. Until the spiritual eyes are opened the heart will remain blinded. Only when God gives sight can the spiritually blind see the truth of the Son of God. Until then no evidence in the world will change the mind of the one who refuses to believe.