Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Is the Bible really the word of God?

When I was a kid, I don't think anyone ever told me what to think there. I guess I perceived that there were three groups of people in the world – those who reckoned it was, those who reckoned it wasn't, and those who didn't know. I was in the third group.

That was when I was a kid. When I got older and spent more time with adults, then it became murkier, because, as I realised much later, alot of adults have agendas to answer the question for them.

When I was 19, a Christian who I was working with said of the Bible "If it's in there, then that's good enough for me!"

His confidence told me that that was the right answer, so I went along with it, but I never had much of a reason.

Over the years, I've discovered that most adult Christians seem to have the same agenda, but no-one's ever given me an origin for the belief. In my early twenties I asked tons of people how the belief that the Bible was written by God had started, but no-one knew. There was the argument that God would never let such a mistake be perpetuated down the centuries, but that didn't hold water because of all the people he allowed to starve in Africa.

It bugged me that the main reason for this belief seemed to be superstition. I supposed that these people would never have believed the Bible to be God's word if it had been written today. Its age muddies its origin, giving us the opportunity to fill-in the blanks with whatever we want to believe.

Recently I learnt that the books we have in the Bible today were only decided upon and declared to have been written by God about 400-500 years ago. I understand that the decision was taken by a group of catholics, who are a church that I don't even belong to, specifically because I disagree with some of their teaching. So how can I follow their stance on the Bible?

Here's the famous quote that you might be thinking of:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

I think that rare word "God-breathed" is fairly inconclusive. God also made us. We sin.

There's also the question of what the word "Scripture" means. And here's the reason why I've mentioned this in a review of 2 Peter:

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

- 2 Peter 1:19-21 (NIV)

Well, I think he might just be talking about his Bible there, rather than ours.

Peter also uses the word "Scripture" later on in this epistle, but since I'm reading it in English, I won't presume it was necessarily the same word in Greek. Here's the quote anyway:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He 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 3:15-16 (NIV)

"the other Scriptures". From Peter's perspective, Paul's letters were not a part of the Bible. He was speaking out against the distortion of Paul's letters. Did he believe that Paul's letters were written by God? Perhaps, but he claims nothing about the authorship of his own.

My point is that if Peter was defending the value of Paul's letters at a time when they were regarded as only letters, then

a) that has implications for Christian letters that we write today, and

b) the uncertainty with which we write Christian letters today has implications for the reliability of Paul's letters.

I don't buy that either Peter or God were referring to the Bible that would ultimately be decided upon 1,500 years later, because that would muddy the Bible's context.


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