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Introduction

This is an essay I did for a Diploma-level subject at an Australian Bible College. It got an ‘A’, so it must be good 🙂

Why Do I Take Notice Of The Bible ?

I take notice of the Bible because it is God speaking and God speaking to me.

The Bible claims to be the written record of God speaking to humanity. If this is true, then the Bible is both authoritative and necessary for spiritual life.

By ‘authoritative’, I mean that the Bible has the right or power to command obedience (Milne, 1998, p.26). By ‘spiritual life’ I mean that the Bible instructs us how to enter into right relationship with God, that through the Bible we learn about God’s will for our lives and that the Bible instructs us how to grow in spiritual maturity and insight (Grudem pp. 116-119).

Phrases such as “God said” and “God commanded” fill the Old Testament (e.g. Gen 2:16, Ex. 9:1; Lev 12:1; Num 5:11, Josh 1:1, Judg 1:2, 2 Sam 7:4; Jer 66:1) which affirms that God’s speech and directive word was written down by His prophets and disciples beginning with Moses (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, pp. 138-140) (see Ex. 24:4 referring to Ex 20:22-23:31, Is 8:1, Jer 30:2). Similarly the New Testament (hereafter NT) attests that its own contents are the commands and words of God. For example, Jesus taught that He was bringing God’s message to Israel, that His teaching is superior to all those who preceded Him and is eternal (Matt 24:35; Matt 5:21-22; Matt 15:24).

While it is one thing for the Bible to claim to be the word of God, it is reasonable to ask how this claim can be tested. In my view the authenticity of scripture can be known by the person of Jesus, crucially hinging on His resurrection. (1 Cor 15:13-14)
As Milne puts it:

‘The resurrection is central to the entire Biblical revelation…To
deny it is to empty faith of all content and value’ (Milne, 1998, p.169)

Jesus claimed to be God. This can be seen in many ways including the unique way in which he expressed His relationship of sonship with God, His acceptance of worship and His jaw-dropping appropriation of the name of God through His famous ‘I AM’ statements (McDowell, 1986, pp. 89-102).(esp. John 8:58ff). Since only God has power over life and death then God’s action to resurrect Jesus ratifies His teaching and claims, especially since Jesus had the audacity to stake the authenticity of His teaching on His statements that He would rise from the grave Matt 12:36-42; John 2:18-22(Rom 1:3-4; Acts 2:29-36; Phil 2:9-11)

Given that Jesus’ teaching is ratified by God, let us then consider Jesus’ teaching on the Bible. I will consider this in three parts: The Old Testament (hereafter OT), the Gospels and the remainder of the NT

Jesus endorsed the entire OT as scripture, affirming the accepted categories and hence contents of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44 NIV). He rebuked the Pharisees for nullifying the OT by their man-made traditions and had complete confidence in its plenary inspiration, even on obscure points such as the death of Lot’s wife. He used the OT to settle points of doctrinal contention, to provoke thought about Himself and passionately defended its verbal inspiration by stressing that not a jot or tittle of the Law could be “dropped out”. He saw his own ministry as confirming and establishing the OT. (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 141; Pinnock, 1985, pp. 37-39) Jesus high view of the OT is also demonstrated by how he constructed and understood the course of His Messianic ministry in relation to it. In this I agree with Milne that Jesus submitted to scripture, in distinction to Pinnock who, rightly affirming the scriptures’ witness to Jesus, then places Jesus in relative freedom to them. (Milne, 1998, pp. 41-42; Pinnock, 1985, p. 42).

As God, Jesus’ own teaching as contained in the Gospels are, by definition, scripture. There then remains to demonstrate why the remainder of the NT, written and/or sanctioned by the apostles, is also scripture.

The key to judging the apostles as inspired writers is in recognizing the special commission and empowerment given to them by Jesus. The commissioning of the apostles took place at the Passover Feast prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were commissioned to testify about Jesus using the teaching from the Father that Jesus had passed to them and were also promised additional truth by the agency of the Holy Spirit. After His resurrection Jesus gave the twelve a special endowment of the Holy Spirit to carry out the task of proclaiming this teaching. (John 15:27; John 17:8; John 16:12-15; John 17:20; John 20:21-23)

As Erickson points out, there is a strong sense in which many aspects of Jesus’ commissioning of the twelve apply to believers as a whole (Erickson, 1983, p. 251), but this does not permit us to ignore the localized context of the original commissioning or the manner of the training of the twelve through their three years of intimate personal engagement with Jesus. Jesus personally chose the twelve then employed rabbinical methods of training which impressed on them the fact of being groomed to be carriers of His teaching (Lewis and Demarest p. 144) Jesus also gave the twelve privileged, deeper instruction. (See Matt 13:16). Viewed thus, the Passover passage constitutes the climax of their training – a real handing-over of the task of teaching, training and proclamation.

The apostles clearly understood that they had received the delegated authority to teach with the authority of scripture. Paul distinguished between apostolic writings and the general insights available to the common believer and described his epistles as “the Lord’s command” (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Cor 13:3). He instructed his letters to be read to all believers, who were then exhorted to stand firmly on the truths therein. Those disobedient to Paul could righteously be excommunicated. Peter affirmed Paul’s writings as scripture, who for his part, submitted himself to the apostles of Jerusalem to confirm his own apostolic credentials. (1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Thess 2:13-15; 2 Thess 3:14-15; Gal 1:11-13; 2 Pet 3:16; Gal 2:1-10; 2 Peter 3:2; Eph 3:4-5 )

The connection between apostleship and authoritative teaching is keenly appreciated by Paul who takes pains to demonstrate that he too fulfills the criteria for apostleship by being an eyewitness to the resurrection, by the reception of teaching directly from Jesus the Lord and by the reception of a divine commissioning from Him (Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p.106). (Gal 1:11-15; 1 Cor 15:8-9; 1 Cor 9:1)

While not all the books of the NT were written by the apostles, all were validated by the apostles because they were written under apostolic sanction. As Warfield puts it,

“God’s authoritative agents in founding the church gave them
[the non-apostolically authored NT books] as authoritative to the
church which they founded.’ (Reformation Ink website, 2007)

Our friend has also objected that the Bible was written by ordinary people. In what way can human writings be said to originate with God? Theologically, this point addresses the concept of ‘inspiration’.

Inspiration

Milne canvasses the major conceptions of inspiration, namely dictation, accommodation and supervision (Milne, 1998, pp. 49-51). While the Bible does contain instances of divine dictation (Rev 2:8), the model which best fits the biblical data is that of ‘supervision’. This conception of inspiration sees that God exercised control over the biblical authors in their selection and redaction of words and ideas and indeed in their entire life development to fit them for the portions of scripture they were to write (Jer. 1:5; Rom 9:17).

The ‘dictation’ view cannot be reconciled to the Biblical data that shows the source of scripture are as varied as documentary research, collation, redaction, dreams, vision and memory. (Grudem, 1994, pp 81-82; Lewis and Demarest, 1987, p. 140).

The ‘accommodation’ view, on the other hand, is inadequate to explain the high view of scripture displayed by Jesus and the NT writers and sets us on a slippery slope (Erickson, 1983, p.226) ending in the kind of Biblical vandalism demonstrated by Bishop John Shelby Spong (Australian Broadcasting Commission website, 2007), whose idea of a Christian reformation begins with the disembowelment of scripture (Diocese Of Newark website 2007)

In distinction to other conceptions of inspiration, supervision provides both a holistic and high view of the divine-human partnership in scripture. The Bible states that scripture is inspired, meaning literally ‘breathed out’ by God, thus underlining its divine origin (2 Tim 3:16). Complementary to this is Peter’s description of the impetus for scripture being the Holy Spirit who ‘carries along’ the scripture writer.
( 2 Peter 1:19-20). Jesus’ endorsement of scripture validates for us that the process of human mediation of scripture does not compromise the integrity of the inspiration.

Conclusion

The veracity of the Bible hinges on Jesus. Jesus validated all scripture in existence at the time of His incarnation and, as God, provided additional scripture. He also trained, specially commissioned and empowered twelve apostles to deliver all remaining necessary truth. Admittedly, the process of inspiration is a mystery and it is difficult to know where or how the divine ends and the human starts. For example, in Exodus 34:1 Moses was commanded to chisel two stone tablets on which the Lord would write and yet in verse 28 we learn that Moses did the actual writing. All that we can say with certainty is that the origin of scripture is divine – God provides the inspiration and impetus – but that human vessels are used.

The ground for our trust in Jesus is ultimately His resurrection. This is the Father’s great attestation to Jesus, God the Son, and hence ratification of all His claims including Jesus’ endorsement of the Bible as God’s word. That is why I take so much notice of the Bible.

Finally, though, it is admitted that the Bible does not provide a formal proof of its own character. It simply provides assertions about itself. (Grudem, 1994, p. 171) The proof of the divine origin of the Bible is only found in the witness of the Holy Spirit to scripture and this is available only to those redeemed through faith in the object of its message. In the meantime, sin obscures the apprehension of the divine virtue of scripture, a condition even the redeemed must battle until He comes again.

Reference List

Australian Broadcasting Commission website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘Sunday Nights
with John Cleary: Bishop Shelby Spong’, transcript, 17 June 2001,
http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s815368.htm

Erickson M.J, 1983, “Christian Theology”, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids,
Michigan

Grudem W., 1994, “Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine”,
Intervarsity Press, Leicester.

Lewis G.R and Demarest B.A, 1987, “Integrative Theology”, Vol. 1, Zondervan,
Grand Rapids, Michigan

McDowell, Josh, 1986, Revised edn, “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”, Vol. 1,
Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardin, California

Milne B., 1998, 2nd edn, “Know The Truth”, Intervarsity Press, Leicester

Pinnock Clark H., 1985, “The Scripture Principle”, Hodder And Stoughton, London

Spong, John.S., Diocese Of Newark website (cited 17 March 2007), ‘A Call For a
New Reformation’, May 1998, http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/vox20598.html

Warfield B.B, 1889, Reformation Ink website (cited 17-March 2007).
‘The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures’,
http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm

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