Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. In this post—the second in our series entitled “How We Got the Bible“—we will explore what biblical inspiration really entails (and what it does not entail). The Bible itself claims to be the inspired, special revelation of the one true God.
The Bible is completely unique. Not sure? OK, let’s make a list of all books that took over 1,500 years to complete. With parts dating back more than 3,500 years, in which the most recent contributions are 1,900 years old. Written by 40 or so authors who corroborate each other’s writings. Containing accurate historical accounts of ancient events that have shown up repeatedly in archaeology (don’t skip over the preceding hyperlink). Claiming to reveal the plan of a loving God for his creation. With massive amounts of self-deprecating text to condemn the authors. Predicting trouble and ostracism for those who live by its teaching. Containing specific prophecies, many of which have proven true over long periods of time. Dwarfing other ancient writings in terms of the number and quality of surviving manuscripts.
How long is our list now?
When researching for this series I was primarily interested in focusing on how the biblical canon was developed—specifically how did we end up with the 66 books that comprise the Bible, what about the Apocrypha, why not other books, and so on. Biblical canon is an extremely interesting topic, but it rightfully fits in the context of a larger question: How did we get the Bible? (We’ll get to the topic of biblical canon in forthcoming posts in this series—and by the way, there are lots of interesting, new publications on canonicity.)
Drs. Norman Geisler and William Nix wrote a comprehensive text entitled From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible that begins with the topic of inspiration. This post will follow that text, which should be required reading for every Christian and student of the Bible.
Whether you are died-in-the-wool biblicist or a Christian neophyte, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the implications of our understanding (or denial) of the inspiration of the Bible. Not just in terms of heaven or hell as an end result, but whether we can trust the Scripture. I just returned from the National Conference on Christian Apologetics, which included some strong rhetoric about the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible (and a fantastic session on the biblical canon). Clarke attended most of the same sessions, so I won’t turn this series into a discussion about inerrancy. He will no doubt address many of the nuances and implications of the “battle for the Bible” in future posts. But consider these two questions:
- Is it even reasonable that an all-powerful and perfect God would inspire the writers of the Bible to produce a text containing errors?
- If God did not inspire the writing of the Bible, isn’t it just the product of human writers, and if that is the case why should we submit to its authority, teaching, and claims?
There are lots of corollary questions, and your answers would reveal a great deal about your understanding of the Christian faith. But for now let’s take a cue from Geisler and Nix and start with the topic of biblical inspiration.
My notes from reading their text are presented below. For a more robust and authoritative treatment of the topic I highly recommend reading From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible. Words in quotes are directly from Geisler and Nix (except where Scripture is being quoted). Continue reading