June 18, 2021

Resource: Bible

I’ve always hated that question, “Are you one of those people who takes the Bible literally?” I think what people mean by that is something like, “Did you chuck your brain so you could mindlessly follow some wacko who wrote in a day when they didn’t even use last names?” I’d like to think the answer to that question is no. The real question, when it comes to the Bible, is this: “Is it human or divine?”

As always, the line of reasoning starts with Jesus. The earthly Jesus taught and modeled that there is a kind of writing that “comes from the mouth of God,” even though it is mediated through flawed human beings. It was Jesus’ conviction that the books we now view as the Old Testament were of this category (see Matthew 4:1-17). His Apostles, in following his lead, gave the name “scripture” only to those writings they believed fit this same category of “divine in origin.” When Peter refers to the writings of Paul as “scripture,” he is making a strong statement as to the ultimate origin of his letters and, hence, their authority. The early church confirmed the collection of New Testament writings we now have as being the ones given by God.

Without looking at the actual data, it might seem like the inclusion or exclusion of a particular book in the Old or New Testaments must have been a bit arbitrary. When we consider actual candidates, however, it turns out the process was not so difficult. Authorship, dating and theological consistency make separating the wheat from the chaff fairly simple. Perhaps the book most often suggested as a possible candidate for the New Testament is the Gospel of Thomas. But the Gospel of Thomas is clearly theologically inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. For example, the book ends with these words, “Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said: “Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who make herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Ouch! Is it really so hard to see why this book didn’t make it in?

A person who believes the Bible to be divine in origin gives it a special place of authority in his or her life. What the Bible says, this person seeks to understand, apply and carry out. Often this is easy and brings immediate blessing. Sometimes, however, the commands of scripture run counter to the desire of the individual. It is in these moments that faith is tested and strengthened. “Is my word authoritative in your life even when it is difficult or hard to carry out?” God asks. For most Christians, the tough passages in scripture need to be sat with over a period of time, reflected upon and digested, before sense can be made. This process is good, healthy and ought not to be short-circuited. At the end of it, we find that, yes, God knows what he’s talking about. A clear sense of the origin and authority of scripture motivates us to hang in until we get there.

Scriptures
Origin of scripture: 2 Peter 1:21
God’s word is powerful: Psalm 33:6
Jesus’ view of scripture: Matthew 4:1-17, Matthew 5:18
Paul’s letters as scripture: 2 Peter 3:15-16
Authority of scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12

Resources
The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, by Craig Blomberg
The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?, by Walter Kaiser

The New Testament Documents The Historical Reliability of the Gospels The Old Testament Documents

Projects

  1. Which teaching in the Bible is difficult for you to live out? Study it on your own or talk to a knowledgeable person about it so you fully understand it. Then step out in faith to live it. What happened? Share with your small group.
  2. Read one of the books listed above and then look for an opportunity to share your views on scripture with a skeptic. Share how it went with your small group.

7 thoughts on “Resource: Bible

  1. This is one topic I really questioned myself for some time; I appreciate the information. I have a bit of high level understanding on the process that determined the books of the current Bible, but maybe one of these resources will provide some additional clarity–Thanks

  2. Hey Larry,

    If you’re wondering about canonization of the Bible, you can find help in “The Canon of Scripture” by F.F. Bruce. It’s rather exhaustive and very non-biased on how the Bible was compiled to what we have today. Though I think the OT documents by Kaiser is great as well for the OT scriptures.

    Thanks.

  3. Also,

    Another great one for understanding “Other Writings” or “Gospels” that were not included in the cannon is called “The Missing Gospels” by Brock. It was made by a recent scholar that is very easily to read but it’s not as dense as my previous recommendation by F.F. Bruce. However, it is more recent in data since Frederick Fyvie past aways a while ago.

    Thanks.

  4. There is a book that I saw in Barnes and noble the other day called “The year of living Biblically” i am going to check it out, it looks real funny. I read a few pages and really in saw in this book what Paul was talking about in Romans. The the law is there to show us that there is no way we can do this on our own, we are too screwed up. Also I get a lot of questions about the canonization of the bible, and how do I know that thsoe are the divine writings. The book of Thomas always comes up and all I can do is laugh and then ask “have you ever read any of those books” they are ridiculous.

    My question is, is there enough evidence that the canonization of the bible was done without personal gain in mind? and how much faith do we have to put into believing that God chose those books?

  5. Joel,
    Personal gain is a good question. If you read the accounts of the followers of Jesus, there’s a lot of stupid, ignorant, foolish, mean things that they say and do. Peter was one of the leaders of the early church and the Roman Catholic church traced their authority through him. But consider some of things recorded about him:

    “Don’t wash my feet Jesus!” Jn 13:8
    “I’ll ALWAYS follow you Jesus!” Jn 13:38
    Chops off a servant’s ear Jn 18:10
    Denies Jesus 3 times John 18:17,25,27

    These passages and others suggest that embarassing material was left in and there wasn’t censoring to clean up the sayings and actions of the early church leaders.

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