Sometimes it is necessary to restate basic truths. Such a time has come regarding the origin and nature of the Bible. At the present moment in the life of the Church, there is an urgent need to reaffirm with deep conviction and clarity the divine origin of Scripture.
I. Origin of the Bible:
The word “Bible” is derived from the Greek word biblos meaning book. The word is used today in reference to the thirty-nine Old Testament and twenty-seven New Testament books of Judeo-Christian Scripture. The sixty-six books of the Bible repeatedly declare themselves to be God’s revelation to mankind. This truth is substantiated through careful examination of key passages of Scripture.
A. Two key passages: The Bible gives clear testimony to its own origin. The internal witness of Scripture demands a response from those who deny its divine origin. Consider the following witness concerning the origin of Scripture.
1. II Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (NASB)
Prior to these verses, the apostle Paul reminded Timothy of his early training in the holy Scriptures (vv. 14-15). In v. 15, the apostle identified the Scriptures as “sacred” (i.e. holy). This places them in association with God’s own character (cf. Isa. 40:25; 57:15). The word scripture itself could refer to writings of another nature. The point made here is that these writings are holy. They are set apart from other writings due to their origin with God.
In verse 15, the apostle also wrote of the central purpose of Scripture as “able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Christ is the central person of Scripture (Lk. 24:25-27; 24:46-47; John 5:39, 46; Acts 17:2-3) and the Scriptures have an innate ability to make one wise unto salvation. The Scriptures are powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and initiate the conviction (John 16:8-10; Ephesians 6:17) that leads to conversion. Having mentioned the Scriptures, the apostle takes the opportunity to restate two basic facts about all Scripture: a) their divine origin and b) their specific usefulness (vv. 16,17).
a. Divine origin: (v. 16) All Scripture is God-breathed.
“This is another way of saying that Scripture is God’s word (cf. Jesus’ use of ‘Scripture’ and ‘Word of God’ in apposition to each other in Jn. 10:35). The same thing is also said when the NT uses ‘God says’ for what is found in Scripture, whether the words were originally spoken by God or not and when Paul insists that the message he speaks consists of words taught by God’s Spirit (I Cor. 2:12-13; cf. Heb. 3:7; Acts 1:16; II Pet. 1:21)” (p. 447, N.I.G.T.C. Commentary on the Pastorals, George W. Knight III ).
Old Testament Writings as statements from God
Scripture as something inspired of God (God-breathed) points to the origin and nature of what was written. ”All” reveals the extent of what is considered to be inspired. The word “Scripture” may refer to the O.T. writings as in v. 15 “sacred writings” (i.e. holy scripture) or to an enlargement from that to include NT writings as well. It is significant that the apostle Peter includes the writings of Paul in the category of Scripture (cf. II Pet. 3:15-16).
“Paul insisted that his letters be read (I Thess. 5:27), exchanged (Col. 4:16), and obeyed (e.g. I Cor. 14:37; II Thess. 2:15) and identified the words he used to communicate the gospel message as ‘those taught by the Spirit’ (I Cor. 2:13). In this letter, Paul has praised Timothy for following his teaching (v. 10), has urged Timothy to continue in what he has learned from Paul (v.14), has commanded Timothy to retain ‘the standard of sound words’that he has heard from Paul (1:13), has commanded him to entrust what he has heard from Paul to faithful men so that they could teach others (2:2), and has insisted that Timothy handle accurately ‘the word of truth’ (2:15). After his remarks on ‘all Scripture’ he will urge Timothy to ‘preach the word’ (4:2), i.e., proclaim the apostolic message about which Paul has said so much in this letter” (George Knight, P. 448, N.I.G.T.C., The Pastorals).
Other parts of the Bible under the title “Scripture”:
b. Specific usefulness (vv.16-17).
The usefulness of Scripture extends beyond “giving wisdom that leads to salvation” (v. 15). In vv. 16-17, the divine origin of Scripture points to a usefulness that invades all areas of life under God. The apostle reveals positive and negative uses in the following pattern:
- Positive: Teaching (Instruction cf. Rom. 15:4; II Tim. 2:19)
- Negative: Reproof (rebuking error cf. II Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9)
- Negative: Correction (setting right with reference to conduct)
- Positive: Training in righteousness (right conduct in keeping with the teaching)
The New English Bible paraphrases this: “for teaching the truth, refuting error, for reformation of manner and discipline in right living.” Knight points out that the first pair deals with belief and the second with action. (Ibid., p. 449)
Note: By virtue of their origin, the Scriptures are the final standard for faith and practice. Every believer is to be subjected to the Authority of the Word of God which is powerful and able to judge the motives and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The authoritative place of the Scripture is especially seen in relation to the way the NT writers applied the OT to their readers (Lk. 16:29-31; Rom. 15:4;I Cor. 10; Heb. 12:5-6 w/Prov. 3:11-12). For more on the authority of the bible, see also: I Cor. 4:6; I Thess. 5:12; II Thess. 3:14; II Tim. 3:16-4:2; II Pet. 3:1-2.
2. II Peter 1:19-21
“And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (NASB).
The major theme of II Peter is the danger presented to the church by false teachers. In v. 19-21 the apostle identifies Scripture as the ultimate source of stability and confidence for the believer, as well as the needed antidote to heretical teaching (2:1).
In v. 19 Peter encourages his readers to pay attention to the prophetic word (OT), which he identifies as a more certain source of revelation and guidance than even his own dramatic witness of Jesus’ transfiguration (v. 16-18). Peter goes on to provide the two-fold bases for the absolute reliability of Scripture’s teachings.
a. Negatively — The source of Scripture is not human (v. 20).
In verse 20, Peter was addressing the question of the origin of scriptural revelation. He asserted that it is not a matter of one’s (the prophets) own interpretation. In other words, the prophets did not “put their own spin” on what they saw or heard. They did not “interpret” with their own limited human minds what God said or showed them. Peter was probably countering the false teacher’s charge that the Scriptures were merely human myths, much like they discounted the report of Jesus’ transfiguration as “cleverly devised tales” (v. 16).
In v. 21a, Peter placed added emphasis on his denial of a merely human thought process in the formation of Scripture: “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will . .”
b. Positively — The source of Scripture is Divine (v. 21).
Although Peter acknowledged a human element in God’s revelation through the Scripture (“Men ……. spoke”), his focal point was the motivation and source of their speaking: “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”.
The apostle Peter taught that it was not the prophet’s will, but God’s Spirit actually “moving” (guiding, superintending) the human agents that brought about the writing of Scripture. Therefore, when men spoke, God spoke. Scripture is the communication of God’s truth to us, arriving through the agency of human writers and speakers who were so guided by the Holy Spirit that they reported exactly what God intended. (See Jer. 1:9; Num. 22:38).
To assert or imply that “the Bible is just a book written by men,” is to wrongly assume that there is no process by which a sovereign God could use fallible man to convey infallible truth. II Peter 1:21 reveals such a process, though some of the technical details remain a mystery to finite minds.
A wise word from the late OT scholar Dr. John Bright:
“We do not worship a book. On the contrary, the sole legitimate object of worship, and the supreme authority to whom the Christian submits himself, is God — the God who, according to the Scripture, worked his redemptive purpose in Israel and, in the fullness of time, revealed himself in Jesus Christ. The Christian’s God is the Creator and Lord of all things, and is the Lord also of Scripture. He existed before there was a Bible, and quite independently of it. He performed his work of creation when no man was there to record it. He gave his covenant law at Sinai, and that law had authority in Israel before the Pentateuch was written. He did his saving work in Jesus Christ, who came, did mighty works, died, and rose again, and this would be just as true had the Gospels never been penned.”
“The Bible, therefore, derives its authority from God; it does not have authority of itself, but rather by virtue of the God to whom it witnesses and who speaks in its pages. The God of the Bible is the Christians’ supreme authority in all senses of the word.”
“True. Yet there is a practical sense in which this comes to much the same thing. What, after all, would the Christian know of his God, of Christ, and of the nature of the Christian faith apart from the Bible? Suppose for a moment the Bible had never been written or had been lost to us. What would we know of the history and faith of Israel? What would we know of Jesus, his life, his teachings, and the significance of his saving work as the early church understood it? The answer is: precious little” (p. 31, The Authority of the Old Testament, 1975).