By Wayne Jackson
Without question, the Bible is the most influential book in the history of the world. Some of the most brilliant minds of which the human race can boast have been drawn to this ancient volume.
In this article we call attention to several great truths regarding the Bible which are vitally important.
As to its origin, the Bible is ultimately from God. Mankind alone could not have written it if he would and he would not have composed it if he could. The Holy Scriptures are the word of God!
The psalmist declared, “Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11; cf. 119:89, 105, 130). Our Lord himself announced that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
And Paul had words of praise for the saints at Thessalonica in that they received the gospel message, not as the word of men, “but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
It is, of course, true that Jehovah employed men in conveying his word to the human family (some forty persons were used in writing the Scriptures), nevertheless, the ultimate source of the divine document is Almighty God himself, and the Bible simply cannot be explained upon any other basis!
But suppose it is conceded that the biblical message is ultimately from the Lord—can we be sure that the writers who penned the original manuscripts did so infallibly?
Yes we can, and the process by which Jehovah protected the integrity of his word is called “inspiration.”
Paul reminded Timothy that “every scripture is inspired of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The expression “inspired of God” (literally in the Greek Testament, “God-breathed”) suggests that the divine author of the sacred writings breathed into the minds of his select penmen the exact message he wanted conveyed to mankind. And the biblical writers happily acknowledged this; they did not claim originality for their productions.
David, for example, affirmed: “The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was upon my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Jesus declared that David, “in the Spirit,” referred to the coming Messiah as “Lord” (Matthew 22:43; cf. Acts 1:16). Paul wrote that the things “we [apostles] speak [are] not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
This is what scholars refer to when they speak of the verbal inspiration of the Bible; they mean that the very words of the Scriptures are God-given.
It is true, of course, that Jehovah utilized the talents, backgrounds, personalities, etc. of the inspired writers to convey his divine message. Nonetheless, it is an indisputable fact that the Lord so guided the sacred writers that they expressed Heaven’s will with absolute precision.
We have amply documented a great number of evidences for the Bible’s inspiration in our book, Fortify Your Faith, and we would encourage the reader to carefully study this material.
The original writings, which collectively came to be called the “Bible,” have faded into oblivion. Not a single one of those original autographs remains—and doubtless for good reason. Men, had they access to those ancient scrolls, would likely worship them rather than their author. And so, in the providence of God, they have long since vanished.
Does that suggest, though, that the copies we now possess are not reliable as depositories of divine truth? Not in the least. Sacred oversight has seen to it that the Scriptures have been remarkably and accurately preserved—and the biblical record bears testimony to this.
For instance, Paul states that Timothy, from his earliest years, had known the sacred writings which were able to make the young man wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). The “sacred writings” to which Paul referred are the books of the Old Testament. (None of the New Testament writings had been penned as yet when Timothy was a “babe.”)
Timothy had perhaps been guided by his godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5) who doubtless took him to synagogue services whenever opportunity presented itself. Though there is no mention of a synagogue in Lystra, Timothy’s hometown (Acts 16:1), there was one in Iconium (Acts 14:1), some twenty-one miles away.
In the synagogue, the sacred text would be read. Obviously, however, those ancient synagogues possessed only copies of the original Old Testament autographs. The integrity of those narratives was so preserved, though, that Paul could affirm that their original design remained intact, that is, making men wise unto salvation.
The original text of the Bible was in three languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with some minor portions in Aramaic) and the New Testament was penned in Greek. Since most people do not read their Bibles in the original languages, they are dependent upon a translation.
The question is therefore appropriate: can one know that he is reading the genuine word of God even though he is employing a translation? Of course he can, and we need only to appeal to the New Testament itself to prove the point.
The most important version of the Old Testament was the Septuagint. In about 250 B.C., down in Alexandria, Egypt, the Hebrew Pentateuch was translated into Greek. The remainder of the Old Testament was done in piecemeal fashion, being completed by at least 117 B.C.
At the time Christ came to earth, this Greek translation had become the Bible of the Jewish people. This is doubtless why the writers of the New Testament, when appealing to the Old Testament, most often quoted from the Septuagint. In fact, of the three hundred or more quotations in the New Testament, the vast majority agree with the Septuagint.
The Lord Jesus himself frequently quoted from this version. Christ could even quote from the Greek translation and say, “Have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God” (Matthew 22:31, 32), thus demonstrating that the translation process did not destroy sacred truth. Any time, therefore, a verse is faithfully translated from the original text to another language, the inspiration, hence, the authoritativeness of the initial word of God, is preserved.
But here is another question of great importance: what if one grants that the Scriptures have been faithfully transmitted and translated, is it not a fact that man’s mind is so hopelessly corrupt, and the Bible is a book so shrouded in mystery, that one cannot understand it without supernatural guidance?
No, that is not the truth (though it is commonly taught by both Catholic and Protestant theologians). Romanism alleges that the Bible “is but a dead letter calling for a divine interpreter” (Conway 1929, 76), which is supposed to be the clergy of the Catholic Church.
And many sectarian groups contend that man is so depraved by sin that he cannot comprehend the teaching of the Bible; he is thus in “need of an inward supernatural teaching of the Spirit” (Hodge 1960, 671). Both of these views are quite erroneous.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that the good soil is “he that hears the word, and understands it” (Matthew 13:23). Paul declared that those who read the words he wrote could “perceive” (understand) his understanding of the gospel system (Ephesians 3:4); later in the same letter he challenged: “[B]e ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:17).
It has never ceased to amaze me that a host of demoninationalists can all claim to have a supernatural, illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit, and yet teach a hundred contradictory doctrines. What a reflection upon deity!
Any person who has an honest heart and strong desire to understand the will of God, if he will but exercise enough discipline to study hard, applying sound principles of interpretation, can comprehend the plain and essential elements of the Scriptures.
A mere theoretical knowledge of the Bible is worthless. Christ declared, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28).
We must allow the word of God to work in us (1 Thessalonians 2:13), or as James has said, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22), for the word is able to build us up and give us the inheritance for which we long (Acts 20:32).
When we extol the Bible as the truth of God, and yet we do not allow the word to richly dwell within us (Colossians 3:16), we do a great disservice to the cause of truth.
For example, Paul notes that a lack of Christian conduct can cause the word of God to be blasphemed (Titus 2:5). By way of contrast, a faithful Christian life can attract favorable attention to the Scriptures (cf. 1 Peter 3:1). Our Lord was the perfect example of one who exercised truth, both in word and deed (Acts 1:1).
No one today has access to divine truth by means of any personal interview with deity. God does not speak in dreams, visions, or by a supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit. Objective revelation has been made known through the completed Bible, and men will only be exposed to the message of the Scriptures as we distribute the sacred volume and proclaim its saving message.
The Lord’s commission obligates us to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15). “Preach the word,” was the burning admonition of Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2). Every single Christian must take seriously his obligation to teach the Bible consistent with his divinely appointed role, ability, and opportunity.
The church of today desperately needs to rekindle the passion of first-century evangelism. The Bible can only be effective when in contact with the human heart. Let us labor to sow the seed of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 8:11).
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