Category: (04) What is Bibliology?

The phrase sola scriptura is from the Latin: sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” “base,” and the word scriptura meaning “writings”—referring to the Scriptures. Sola scriptura means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. The Bible is complete, authoritative, and true. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Sola scriptura was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible. Some examples are  prayer to saints and/or Mary, the  immaculate conception,  transubstantiation,  infant baptism,  indulgences, and  papal authority. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Protestant Reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with excommunication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther’s reply was, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”

The primary Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that the Bible does not explicitly teach sola scriptura. Catholics argue that the Bible nowhere states that it is the only authoritative guide for faith and practice. While this is true, they fail to recognize a crucially important issue. We know that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible declares itself to be God-breathed, inerrant, and authoritative. We also know that God does not change His mind or contradict Himself. So, while the Bible itself may not explicitly argue for sola scriptura, it most definitely does not allow for traditions that contradict its message. Sola scriptura is not as much of an argument against tradition as it is an argument against unbiblical, extra-biblical and/or anti-biblical doctrines. The only way to know for sure what God expects of us is to stay true to what we know He has revealed—the Bible. We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition.

The Word of God is the only authority for the Christian faith. Traditions are valid only when they are based on Scripture and are in full agreement with Scripture. Traditions that contradict the Bible are not of God and are not a valid aspect of the Christian faith. Sola scriptura is the only way to avoid subjectivity and keep personal opinion from taking priority over the teachings of the Bible. The essence of sola scriptura is basing your spiritual life on the Bible alone and rejecting any tradition or teaching that is not in full agreement with the Bible. Second Timothy 2:15 declares, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Sola scriptura does not nullify the concept of church traditions. Rather, sola scriptura gives us a solid foundation on which to base church traditions. There are many practices, in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that are the result of traditions, not the explicit teaching of Scripture. It is good, and even necessary, for the church to have traditions. Traditions play an important role in clarifying and organizing Christian practice. At the same time, in order for these traditions to be valid, they must not be in disagreement with God’s Word. They must be based on the solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church, and many other churches, is that they base traditions on traditions which are based on traditions which are based on traditions, often with the initial tradition not being in full harmony with the Scriptures. That is why Christians must always go back to sola scriptura, the authoritative Word of God, as the only solid basis for faith and practice.

On a practical matter, a frequent objection to the concept of sola scriptura is the fact that the canon of the Bible was not officially agreed upon for at least 250 years after the church was founded. Further, the Scriptures were not available to the masses for over 1500 years after the church was founded. How, then, were early Christians to use sola scriptura, when they did not even have the full Scriptures? And how were Christians who lived before the invention of the printing press supposed to base their faith and practice on Scripture alone if there was no way for them to have a complete copy of the Scriptures? This issue is further compounded by the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history. How does the concept of sola scriptura handle these issues?

The problem with this argument is that it essentially says that Scripture’s authority is based on its availability. This is not the case. Scripture’s authority is universal; because it is God’s Word, it is His authority. The fact that Scripture was not readily available, or that people could not read it, does not change the fact that Scripture is God’s Word. Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. While it was unrealistic for every Christian to possess a complete copy of the Bible, it was possible that every church could have some, most, or all of the Scriptures available to it. Early church leaders should have made studying the Scriptures their highest priority so they could accurately teach it. Even if the Scriptures could not be made available to the masses, at least church leaders could be well-trained in the Word of God. Instead of building traditions upon traditions and passing them on from generation to generation, the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2).

Again, traditions are not the problem. Unbiblical traditions are the problem. The availability of the Scriptures throughout the centuries is not the determining factor. The Scriptures themselves are the determining factor. We now have the Scriptures readily available to us. Through the careful study of God’s Word, it is clear that many church traditions which have developed over the centuries are in fact contradictory to the Word of God. This is where sola scriptura applies. Traditions that are based on, and in agreement with, God’s Word can be maintained. Traditions that are not based on, and/or disagree with, God’s Word must be rejected. Sola scriptura points us back to what God has revealed to us in His Word. Sola scriptura ultimately points us back to the God who always speaks the truth, never contradicts Himself, and always proves Himself to be dependable.

In the very beginning, God was already there. For His own good pleasure, God created time and the universe by the power of His word, turning nothing into something. On the sixth day of creation, God made something unique: mankind—a man and a woman—created in His likeness. As God created the first two humans as male and female, He instituted the covenant of marriage (Genesis 1–2).

God placed the man and his wife in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility of tending the garden. God allowed them to eat of any fruit in the garden but one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden to them. They had a choice to obey or disobey, but God warned them that death would result if they disobeyed (Genesis 2:15-17).

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer rebelled against God in heaven. He and one third of the angelic host were cast out of heaven. Lucifer came into the garden where the man and his wife were. There, he took the form of a serpent and tempted Eve, the first woman, to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. He told her that she would not die and that the fruit was actually good for her. She believed the lies and ate some of the fruit. She then gave the fruit to her husband, Adam, and he ate it, too. Immediately, the couple knew they had done wrong. They felt ashamed and vulnerable and exposed. When God came looking for them, they hid (Isaiah 14:12-15; Genesis 3).

Of course, God found them. Judgment was meted out. The ground was cursed for the man’s sake: it would no longer bring forth its fruit easily; instead, man must toil to produce a crop. The woman was cursed with pain during childbirth. The serpent was cursed to crawl in the dust from then on. And then God made a promise: one day, Someone would be born of a woman who would do battle with the Serpent. This One would crush the Serpent’s head, although He would be injured in the process. God then slaughtered an animal and provided coverings of skin for the sinful couple before He drove them out of Eden (Genesis 3:15-19, 21).

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel, and was cursed for his deed. Another child was born to the first woman. His name was Seth (Genesis 4:8, 25).

Several generations later, the world was filled with wickedness. Violence and a disregard for God were rampant. God determined to destroy the wickedness of man and begin anew. A man named Noah, one of Seth’s descendants, was extended grace (God’s blessing on the undeserving). God revealed to Noah that He would send a great Flood to destroy the earth, and He gave Noah instructions on building an ark to survive the Flood. Noah built the ark, and when the time came, God caused animals of each kind to enter the ark. These animals, along with Noah and his family, were spared. The Flood destroyed every other living thing on the earth (Genesis 6–8).

After the Flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth. When their descendants began building a monument to themselves in defiance of God, God confused their language. The inhabitants of the earth separated according to their language groups and spread out over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:1-8).

The time came for God to begin His plan to introduce the Serpent-crusher into the world. The first step was to create a people set apart from Himself. He chose a man named Abraham and his wife, Sarah, to begin a new race of people. God called Abraham away from his home and led him to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants who would possess Canaan as their own. God also promised to bless Abraham’s seed and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the earth. The problem was that Abraham and Sarah were old, and Sarah was barren. But Abraham believed God’s promise, and God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness (Genesis 12:1-4; 15:6).

In due time, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. God repeated His promise of many descendants and blessing to Isaac. Isaac had twins, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob to inherit the promised blessing and changed his name to Israel. Jacob/Israel had twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 21:1-6; 25:19-26; 28:10-15; 35:23-26).

Due to a severe famine, Jacob moved his entire family from Canaan to Egypt. Before he died, Jacob gave prophetic blessings to each of his sons. To Judah, he promised there would be a King among his descendants—One who would be honored by all the nations of the world. Jacob’s family increased in Egypt, and they remained there for the next 400 years. Then the king of Egypt, fearing that the children of Israel would become too numerous to handle, enslaved them. God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham (Genesis 46; 49; Exodus 1:8-14; 3:7-10).

The exodus from Egypt was accompanied by many great miracles, including the parting of the Red Sea. Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Moses the Law. This Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, was the basis of a covenant God made with Israel: if they kept His commandments, they would be blessed, but if they broke His commandments, they would suffer curses. Israel agreed to follow the Law of God (Exodus 7–11; 14:21-22; 19–20).

In addition to establishing a moral code, the Law defined the role of the priest and prescribed the offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The Law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, or tent, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people (Leviticus 1; Exodus 25:8-9).

After receiving the Law, Moses led the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land. But the people, fearing Canaan’s warlike inhabitants and doubting God’s promises, refused to enter. As a punishment, God turned them back into the wilderness, where they were forced to wander for 40 years. In His grace, God miraculously provided food and water for the entire multitude (Numbers 14:1-4, 34-35; Exodus 16:35).

At the end of 40 years, Moses died. One of his last prophecies concerned the coming of another Prophet who would be like Moses and to whom the people must listen. Moses’ successor, Joshua, was used by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. They went with God’s promise that none of their enemies would be able to stand against them. God showed His power at Jericho, the first city they encountered, by causing the walls of the city to fall down flat. In His grace and mercy, God spared a believing harlot named Rahab from Jericho’s destruction (Deuteronomy 18:15; Joshua 6).

Over the next years, Joshua and the Israelites succeeded in driving out most of the Canaanites, and the land was divided among the twelve tribes. However, the conquest of the land was incomplete. Through a lack of faith and simple disobedience, they failed to finish the job, and pockets of Canaanites remained. These pagan influences had an effect on the Israelites, who began to adopt the worship of idols, in direct violation of God’s Law (Joshua 15:63; 16:10; 18:1).

After Joshua’s death, the Israelites experienced a tumultuous time. The nation would lapse into idolatry, and God would bring judgment in the form of enslavement to an enemy. The people of God would repent and call on the Lord for help. God would then raise up a judge to destroy the idols, rally the people, and defeat the enemy. Peace would last for a while, but, after the death of the judge, the people invariably fell back into idolatry, and the cycle would repeat (Judges 17:6).

The final judge was Samuel, who was also a prophet. During his time, Israel demanded a king to rule over them, in order to be like the other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, however. He disobeyed God and was removed from power. God chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as king. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on the throne forever (1 Samuel 8:5; 15:1, 26; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem after David’s death. During the reign of Solomon’s son, civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided: the northern kingdom was called Israel, and the southern kingdom was called Judah. The Davidic dynasty ruled in Judah (1 Kings 2:1; 12).

The kingdom of Israel had an unbroken series of wicked kings. None of them sought the Lord or attempted to lead the nation according to God’s Law. God sent prophets to warn them, including the miracle-working Elijah and Elisha, but the kings persisted in their wickedness. Finally, God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. The Assyrians deported most of the Israelites, and that was the end of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 2; 17).

The kingdom of Judah had its share of wicked kings, but the chain was broken by an occasional godly king who truly loved the Lord and sought to govern according to the Law. God was faithful to His promise and blessed the people when they followed His commandments. The nation was preserved during the Assyrian invasion and endured many other threats. During this time, the prophet Isaiah preached against the sins of Judah and foresaw the Babylonian invasion. Isaiah also predicted the coming of the Servant of the Lord—He would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem (Isaiah 37; 53:5; Micah 5:2).

Eventually, the nation of Judah also fell into gross idolatry. God brought the nation of Babylon against Judah in judgment. The prophet Jeremiah experienced the fall of Jerusalem and predicted that the Jewish captives in Babylon would return to the Promised Land after 70 years. Jeremiah also prophesied a future covenant in which the Law was not written on tablets of stone but in the hearts of God’s people. This new covenant would result in God’s forgiveness of sin (2 Kings 25:8-10; Jeremiah 29:10; 31:31-34).

The Babylon captivity lasted for 70 years. The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel ministered during that time. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of many nations. He also predicted the coming of the Messiah, or Chosen One, who would be killed for the sake of others (Daniel 2:36-45; 9:26).

After Babylon fell to the Persians, the Jews were released to return to Judah. Many Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Nehemiah and Ezra led those endeavors, with encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. One of Zechariah’s prophecies included a description of a future King who would come into Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey (Nehemiah 6:15-16; Ezra 6:14-15; Zechariah 9:9).

Not all of the Jews returned to Judah, however. Many chose to stay in Persia, where God still watched over them. A Jewess named Esther rose to the rank of queen of Persia and was instrumental in saving the lives of all the Jews in the kingdom (Esther 8:1).

Malachi wrote the last book of the Old Testament. He prophesied that the Lord would come to His temple, but, before His arrival, another messenger would prepare the way for the Lord. This messenger would be like the prophet Elijah of old. After Malachi’s prophecy, it was another 400 years before God spoke directly to man (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring about the redemption of man. At the close of the Old Testament, God has a unique Chosen People who understand the importance of blood sacrifices, who believe the promises made to Abraham and David, and who are awaiting a Redeemer. In short, they are ready to receive the Serpent-crusher of Genesis, the Prophet like Moses, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the Humble King of Zechariah—all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.

Bibliology is the study of the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible is the inspired  source of knowledge about God, Jesus Christ, salvation, and eternity. Without a  proper view of the Bible, our views on these and other issues become clouded and  distorted. Bibliology tells us what the Bible is. Common questions in Bibliology  are:

Is the Bible truly God’s Word? Our  answer to this question will not only determine how we view the Bible and its  importance to our lives, but also ultimately will have an eternal impact on  us.

What is the canon of Scripture? The basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we can’t  identify what is Scripture, then we can’t properly distinguish any theological  truth from error.

What does it mean that  the Bible is inspired? While there are different views as to what extent the  Bible is inspired, there can be no doubt that the Bible itself claims that every  word, in every part of the Bible, is inspired by God (1 Corinthians  2:12-13; 2 Timothy  3:16-17).

Does the Bible contain errors,  contradictions, or discrepancies? If you read the Bible, at face value,  without a preconceived bias for finding errors – you will find it to be a  coherent, consistent, and relatively easy-to-understand book.

Is  there proof for the inspiration of the Bible? Among the proofs for the  divine inspiration of the Bible are fulfilled prophecy, the unity of Scripture,  and the support of archeological findings. Its most important proof, however, is  in the lives of those who read it, believe it, and live according to its  precepts.

Bibliology teaches us that the Bible is inspired, meaning it  is “breathed out” by God. A proper Bibliology holds to the inerrancy of  Scripture—that the Bible does not contain any errors, contradictions, or  discrepancies. A solid Bibliology helps us to understand how God used the  personalities and styles of the human authors of Scripture and still produced  His Word and exactly what He wanted to be said. Bibliology enables us to know  why other books were excluded from the Bible. For the Christian, the Bible is  life itself. Its pages are filled with the very Spirit of God, revealing His  heart and mind to us. What a wonderful and gracious God we have! He could have  left us to struggle through life with no help at all, but He gave His Word to  guide us, truly a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

A  key Scripture on Bibliology is 2 Timothy  3:16-17, “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.”

What does it mean to be a born-again Christian? The classic passage from the  Bible that answers this question is John 3:1-21.  The Lord Jesus Christ is talking to Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and member  of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews). Nicodemus had come to Jesus at  night with some questions.

As Jesus talked with Nicodemus, He said, “‘I  tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’  ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter  a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you  the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and  the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:3-7).

The phrase “born again” literally  means “born from above.” Nicodemus had a real need. He needed a change of his  heart—a spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again, is an act of God  whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes (2 Corinthians 5:17Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-4, 18). John 1:12, 13 indicates  that being “born again” also carries the idea of “becoming children of God”  through trust in the name of Jesus Christ.

The question logically comes,  “Why does a person need to be born again?” The apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1 says, “And  you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (NKJV). To the Romans  he wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sinners are spiritually “dead”; when they  receive spiritual life through faith in Christ, the Bible likens it to a  rebirth. Only those who are born again have their sins forgiven and have a  relationship with God.

How does that come to be? Ephesians 2:8-9 states,  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from  yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When  one is saved, he/she has been born again, spiritually renewed, and is now a  child of God by right of new birth. Trusting in Jesus Christ, the One who paid  the penalty of sin when He died on the cross, is the means to be “born again.”  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the  new has come!” (2  Corinthians 5:17).

If you have never trusted in the Lord Jesus  Christ as your Savior, will you consider the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He  speaks to your heart? You need to be born again. Will you pray the prayer of  repentance and become a new creation in Christ today? “Yet to all who received  him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of  God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s  will, but born of God” (John  1:12-13).

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and be  born again, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other  prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from  sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank  Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against  you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I  deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in  You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift  of eternal life! Amen!”

When people speak of the Bible as inspired, they are referring to the fact that  God divinely influenced the human authors of the Scriptures in such a way that  what they wrote was the very Word of God. In the context of the Scriptures, the  word “inspiration” simply means “God-breathed.” Inspiration means the Bible  truly is the Word of God and makes the Bible unique among all other  books.

While there are different views as to the extent to which the  Bible is inspired, there can be no doubt that the Bible itself claims that every  word in every part of the Bible comes from God (1  Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy  3:16-17). This view of the Scriptures is often referred to as “verbal  plenary” inspiration. That means the inspiration extends to the very words  themselves (verbal)—not just concepts or ideas—and that the inspiration extends  to all parts of Scripture and all subject matters of Scripture (plenary). Some  people believe only parts of the Bible are inspired or only the thoughts or  concepts that deal with religion are inspired, but these views of inspiration  fall short of the Bible’s claims about itself. Full verbal plenary inspiration  is an essential characteristic of the Word of God.

The extent of  inspiration can be clearly seen in 2 Timothy  3:16, “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.” This verse tells us that God inspired  all Scripture and that it is profitable to us. It is not just the parts of the  Bible that deal with religious doctrines that are inspired, but each and every  word from Genesis to Revelation. Because it is inspired by God, the Scriptures  are therefore authoritative when it comes to establishing doctrine, and  sufficient for teaching man how be in a right relationship with God. The Bible  claims not only to be inspired by God, but also to have the supernatural ability  to change us and make us “complete.” What more can we need?

Another  verse that deals with the inspiration of the Scriptures is 2 Peter 1:21. This verse  helps us to understand that even though God used men with their distinctive  personalities and writing styles, God divinely inspired the very words they  wrote. Jesus Himself confirmed the verbal plenary inspiration of the Scriptures  when He said, “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. I tell you the truth, until  heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a  pen, will by any means disappear from the Law…” (Matthew  5:17-18). In these verses, Jesus is reinforcing the accuracy of the  Scriptures down to the smallest detail and the slightest punctuation mark,  because it is the very Word of God.

Because the Scriptures are the  inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and  authoritative. A correct view of God will lead us to a correct view of His Word.  Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely perfect, His Word will  by its very nature have the same characteristics. The same verses that establish  the inspiration of the Scriptures also establish that it is both inerrant and  authoritative. Without a doubt the Bible is what it claims to be—the undeniable,  authoritative, Word of God to humanity.

The word “canon” comes from the rule of law that was used to determine if a  book measured up to a standard. It is important to note that the writings of  Scripture were canonical at the moment they were written. Scripture was  Scripture when the pen touched the parchment. This is very important because  Christianity does not start by defining God, or Jesus Christ, or salvation. The  basis of Christianity is found in the authority of Scripture. If we cannot  identify what Scripture is, then we cannot properly distinguish any theological  truth from error.

What measure or standard was used to determine which  books should be classified as Scripture? A key verse to understanding the  process and purpose, and perhaps the timing of the giving of Scripture, is Jude 3 which states that a  Christian’s faith “was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Since our faith is  defined by Scripture, Jude is essentially saying that Scripture was given once  for the benefit of all Christians. Isn’t it wonderful to know that there are no  hidden or lost manuscripts yet to be found, there are no secret books only  familiar to a select few, and there are no people alive who have special  revelation requiring us to trek up a Himalayan mountain in order to be  enlightened? We can be confident that God has not left us without a witness. The  same supernatural power God used to produce His Word has also been used to  preserve it.

Psalm  119:160 states that the entirety of God’s Word is truth. Starting with that  premise, we can compare writings outside the accepted canon of Scripture to see  if they meet the test. As an example, the Bible claims that Jesus Christ is God  (Isaiah  9:6-7; Matthew  1:22-23; John 1:1, 2, 14, 20:28; Acts 16:3134; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:82 Peter  1:1). Yet many extra-biblical texts, claiming to be Scripture, argue that  Jesus is not God. When clear contradictions exist, the established Bible is to  be trusted, leaving the others outside the sphere of Scripture.

In the  early centuries of the church, Christians were sometimes put to death for  possessing copies of Scripture. Because of this persecution, the question soon  came up, “What books are worth dying for?” Some books may have contained sayings  of Jesus, but were they inspired as stated in 2 Timothy  3:16? Church councils played a role in publicly recognizing the canon of  Scripture, but often an individual church or groups of churches recognized a  book as inspired from its writing (e.g., Colossians  4:16; 1  Thessalonians 5:27). Throughout the early centuries of the church, few books  were ever disputed and the list was basically settled by A.D. 303.

When  it came to the Old Testament, three important facts were considered: 1) The New  Testament quotes from or alludes to every Old Testament book but two. 2) Jesus  effectively endorsed the Hebrew canon in Matthew  23:35 when He cited one of the first narratives and one of the last in the  Scriptures of His day. 3) The Jews were meticulous in preserving the Old  Testament Scriptures, and they had few controversies over what parts belong or  do not belong. The Roman Catholic Apocrypha did not measure up and fell outside  the definition of Scripture and has never been accepted by the Jews.

Most questions about which books belong in the Bible dealt with writings from  the time of Christ and forward. The early church had some very specific criteria  in order for books to be considered as part of the New Testament. These  included: Was the book written by someone who was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ?  Did the book pass the “truth test”? (i.e., did it concur with other, already  agreed-upon Scripture?). The New Testament books they accepted back then have  endured the test of time and Christian orthodoxy has embraced these, with little  challenge, for centuries.

Confidence in the acceptance of specific books  dates back to the first century recipients who offered firsthand testimony as to  their authenticity. Furthermore, the end-time subject matter of the book of  Revelation, and the prohibition of adding to the words of the book in Revelation 22:18, argue  strongly that the canon was closed at the time of its writing (c. A.D.  95).

There is an important theological point that should not be missed.  God has used His word for millennia for one primary purpose—to reveal Himself  and communicate to mankind. Ultimately, the church councils did not decide if a  book was Scripture; that was decided when the human author was chosen by God to  write. In order to accomplish the end result, including the preservation of His  Word through the centuries, God guided the early church councils in their  recognition of the canon.

The acquisition of knowledge regarding such  things as the true nature of God, the origin of the universe and life, the  purpose and meaning of life, the wonders of salvation, and future events  (including the destiny of mankind) are beyond the natural observational and  scientific capacity of mankind. The already-delivered Word of God, valued and  personally applied by Christians for centuries, is sufficient to explain to us  everything we need to know of Christ (John 5:18; Acts 18:28; Galatians 3:22; 2 Timothy 3:15) and to  teach us, correct us, and instruct us into all righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

If we read the Bible at face value, without a preconceived bias for finding  errors, we will find it to be a coherent, consistent, and relatively  easy-to-understand book. Yes, there are difficult passages. Yes, there are  verses that appear to contradict each other. We must remember that the Bible was  written by approximately 40 different authors over a period of around 1500  years. Each writer wrote with a different style, from a different perspective,  to a different audience, for a different purpose. We should expect some minor  differences. However, a difference is not a contradiction. It is only an error  if there is absolutely no conceivable way the verses or passages can be  reconciled. Even if an answer is not available right now, that does not mean an  answer does not exist. Many have found a supposed error in the Bible in relation  to history or geography only to find out that the Bible is correct once further  archaeological evidence is discovered.

We often receive questions along  the lines of “Explain how these verses do not contradict!” or “Look, here is an  error in the Bible!” Admittedly, some of the things people bring up are  difficult to answer. However, it is our contention that there are viable and  intellectually plausible answers to every supposed Bible contradiction and  error. There are books and websites available that list “all the errors in the  Bible.” Most people simply get their ammunition from these places; they do not  find supposed errors on their own. There are also books and websites available  that refute every one of these supposed errors. The saddest thing is that most  people who attack the Bible are not truly interested in an answer. Many “Bible  attackers” are even aware of these answers, but they continue to use the same  old shallow attacks again and again.

So, what are we to do when someone  approaches us with an alleged Bible error? 1) Prayerfully study the Scriptures  and see if there is a simple solution. 2) Do some research using some of the  fine Bible commentaries, “Bible defense” books, and biblical research websites.  3) Ask our pastors/church leaders to see if they can find a solution. 4) If  there is still no clear answer after steps 1), 2), and 3) are followed, we trust  God that His Word is truth and that there is a solution that just simply has not  been realized yet (2 Timothy  2:15, 3:16-17).

Here are some evidences that the Bible is inspired (God-breathed) by God, as  declared in 2 Timothy  3:16.

1) Fulfilled prophecy. God spoke to men telling them of things  He would bring about in the future. Some of them have already occurred. Others  have not. For example, there were more than 300 prophecies concerning Jesus  Christ’s first coming 2,000 years ago. There is no doubt that these are  prophecies from God because of manuscripts and scrolls dated before the birth of  Christ. These were not written after the fact. They were written beforehand.  Scientific dating proves this.

2) The unity of Scripture. The Bible was  written by approximately 40 human authors over a period of approximately 1,600  years. These men were quite diverse. Moses, a political leader; Joshua, a  military leader; David, a shepherd; Solomon, a king; Amos, a herdsman and fruit  picker; Daniel, a prime minister; Matthew, a tax collector; Luke, a medical  doctor; Paul, a rabbi; and Peter, a fisherman; among others. The Bible was also  written under a variety of circumstances. It was written on 3 different  continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Yet, the great themes of Scripture are  maintained in all the writings. The Bible does not contradict itself. There is  no way, apart from God the Holy Spirit supervising the writing of the Bible,  that this could have been accomplished.

Contrast this with the Islamic  Koran. It was compiled by one individual, Zaid bin Thabit, under the guidance of  Mohammed’s father-in-law, Abu-Bekr. Then in A.D. 650, a group of Arab scholars  produced a unified version and destroyed all variant copies to preserve the  unity of the Koran. The Bible was unified from the time of its writing. The  Koran had to be unified through the editing of men.

3) The Bible  presents its heroes truthfully with all of their faults and weaknesses. It does  not glorify men as other religions do about their heroes. When you read the  Bible, you realize that the people it describes have problems and do wrong just  as we do. What made them great was that they trusted in God. One example is  David. David is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet,  David committed adultery (2 Samuel  11:1-5) and murder (2 Samuel  11:14-26). This could have been left out of Scripture to hide these details  of David’s life. But God included these things.

4) Archaeological  findings support the history recorded in Scripture. Though many unbelieving  people throughout history have tried to find archaeological evidence to disprove  what is recorded in the Bible, they have failed. It is easy to say that  Scripture is untrue. Proving it to be untrue is a different story. It has not  been done. In fact, in the past the Bible contradicted the current “scientific”  theories, only to be proven later to be in fact true. A good example is Isaiah 40:22, which  declared that God “sits on the circle of the earth” long before scientists  claimed the earth was flat.

The Bible’s claims of being from God should  not be understood as arguing in a circle or by circular reasoning. The testimony  of reliable witnesses – particularly of Jesus, but also of others such as Moses,  Joshua, David, Daniel, and Nehemiah in the Old Testament, and John and Paul in  the New Testament – affirm the authority and verbal inspiration of the Holy  Scriptures. Consider the following passages: Exodus 14:120:1; Leviticus 4:1; Numbers 4:1; Deuteronomy  4:2; 32:48Isaiah 1:10, 24; Jeremiah  1:11; Jeremiah  11:1–3; Ezekiel 1:31  Corinthians 14:37; 1  Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter  1:16–21; 1 John  4:6.

Also of interest are the writings of Josephus, an historian who  recorded much of the history of Israel during the first century. In this he  records some events which coincide with Scripture. Beware though, his writings  are rather lengthy. Considering the evidence given, we have no choice but to  accept the Bible as being from God (2 Timothy  3:16).