Is the Bible the Word of God?
In other words, is the collection (or canon) of scriptures contained in today’s Christian Bible God’s word to mankind?
As we set off on this new series, I could think of no greater question than this. We must begin here. The answer to this question will determine every question and every answer we cover from here forward in this column and, perhaps, in your life. To answer this question, however, we must turn to consider the history of the scriptures — how they were received and collected (or canonized.)
The protestant Bible is a collection of 66 individual books, 39 in the Old Testament (OT) and 27 in the New Testament (NT). Of these 66 books, the vast majority are comprised of first-hand, eye-witness testimony, which by their nature would need to be verified by other witnesses during the time in which they were authored to be considered accurate. This is especially true for the NT accounts of Jesus, the history of Acts, and the authorship of the various epistles. Christians of the first century, additionally, only recognized apostolic testimonies and writings from the era as authoritative and delivered from God. And, thus, the NT canon was distinguished.
The OT canon, however, was established differently, as it was much more direct. In fact, it was a command of the Lord to do so — to record and preserve the works and the word of the Lord for the generations still to come (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 6:6-7). And we can see this through internal evidence. The OT scriptures attest to the fact that the ancient Hebrew people took great care in recording and preserving what God had done for them and commanded them across the centuries (Exodus 24:4; Joshua 4:6; 24:24-26; Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Likewise, the prophesies were confirmed as God acted — meaning, as a prophesy came to pass, the prophet and his words were authenticated as being from God and preserved as such (Deut. 18:21-22). For the histories, on the other hand, they were passed on from earlier accounts. Genesis, for example, seems to have been collected and compiled by Moses from earlier written accounts like the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Numbers 21:14).
Truly, the word of the Lord in the OT was, as even Jesus states, preserved and “handed down” across the millennia with special care, for they knew what was written “was said to [them] by God” (Mark 7:13; Matthew 22:31). Likewise, the texts of the NT were carefully preserved and passed down through the generations, being carried across many continents and translated into many different languages. Nevertheless, the heavily copied and travelled NT, like its OT counterpart, is known for its reliability and accuracy, as that none of the books of the canon are seriously contested, yet they were widely copied and distributed across the known world. Moreover, more manuscripts exist of the NT books than any other text from antiquity, even those highly esteemed by scholars and experts like the works of Plato and Herodotus. Considering all this, it is not illogical to believe in the reliability of the Bible.
Is it the Word of God, though?
Many have died because they believed so. The OT rings with the words “Hear the Word of the Lord…Thus says the Lord” (Jeremiah 2:4-5), and the NT declares with bold words that “All scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
We must all judge for ourselves whether it is the word of the Lord or not. The only way to truly know is to read for yourself. I invite you to begin with the Gospel of John; and I believe you will find, as did I, the Savior of the world who came and died for you.
If you have any questions about this article or how to be a Christian, you can reach me through the email below. I will be praying for you, reader.
Until next week, God bless!
(Jeremy Breland is a farmer in Ruffin and a M.Div. student at Southern Seminary. He can be reached at email@example.com.)