This is the first part of a four part series of blog posts hoping to answer this question, is the Bible merely a book about God or is it actually from God? Amazon has at least 80,000 books about God, some more helpful than others. Every major religion has a holy book, as well As Christians, we claim that the Bible has been inspired by God, literally breathed out by Him, the source of divine revelation. This claim separates the Bible from any other book, if true. A book about God may be helpful, but a book actually from God, inspired, would be the basis of all truth. Yet, making the claim does not make it so. Other religious holy books claim to be from God. What I hope to do in these four posts is share four different lines of evidence flowing from within the pages of Scripture that prove that the Bible bears the marks of a divinely inspired book. In other words, I fully believe that the Bible is self-authenticating when it comes to this question, that as we look into the pages of text in the Scriptures we will find God Himself whispering in the pages, “This is me, I am behind this.” So my goal is to point out four (there are way more than four) evidences of divine inspiration, that the Scriptures are the very word of God.
The first evidence is the incredible unity of the Bible. To understand this, first, some basic facts about the compilation of the Bible. The book we call the Bible is actually a library of books containing 66 smaller works that we call the books of the Bible. Each of these books is a stand-alone work, and has something that differentiates it from all the other works, things such as genre, authorship, purpose, story content, etc. These books were written by over 40 different human authors that come from all sorts of socioeconomic contexts and backgrounds, over a period of 1500 years, from three different continents (Asia, Africa, Europe), and in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). In contrast, most every other religion is based on the work of one author penned over a very short period of time. Yet, these books take on the deepest and most controversial questions we as humans contemplate, including:
- Origins – Where did we come from and how did everything get here?
- Spirituality – Who is God and how can we relate to Him?
- Purpose – Why are we here and what are we supposed to do?
- Problem – What is wrong with the world and how do we fix it?
- Hope – Is salvation available and how is it found?
- Future – Is there life after death, and if so, what happens?
Think about these. We as humans ponder these things. But if you were to enter a room with ten people and throw any of these questions on the table, and ask the people in the room to define their position, defend it, and then debate, well, that room would get heated pretty quick. We would end up with about 15 opinions, because we are not even consistent with our own views. You would end up with political views, name-calling, hurt feelings, and if left going, fights. In fact, wars in the world are often fought over difference of world views around these questions. To think that we could find unity around these questions is just, well, a bit crazy.
Yet, what we find in the Bible is that it jumps headlong into these questions, not just answering them, but dealing deeply with the implications of these issues to our humanity and relationship with the Creator. And it is not just that the Bible as a whole answers these, but that every book deals with each of the questions and their implications. And what we find is an amazing coherence and unity around these questions. There is a consistent understanding of the answer, the implications of the question on the human story, and how God’s divine plan of salvation brings each question to its fulfilled purpose in the person of Jesus.
Let’s take one example here, the fourth question above on the problem. Imagine walking into a class room with a small group of people and as an assignment being given this question for a debate. Everyone has to answer and defend their position. It may start small and quiet, but eventually someone would throw out that the problem is liberalism or conservatism, racism or immigration, the lack of education and opportunity or lack of initiative. And once the cat is out of the bag, it would be on. Some might run to the corner afraid to speak, but others would be arguing. One thing that would not happen, though, is any unity around the answer to this question. Sides would be drawn quickly, and the fight would be on, and eventually we would find someone to blame for all the problems in the world.
On the other hand, as the Scripture engages with this question, it begins by showing us in Genesis 3, in story form, how the first two human parents made a functional decision to reject God and replace Him with themselves. Rather than having a God-centered and glorifying existence, they chose to be like God, to choose their own path of right and wrong, and to determine their own way. This resulted in a broken relationship with their Creator, and since God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, everything in their lives is now broken as a result. What was once a perfect relationship with God, self, each other, and the world around them is now marred. Because their relationship with God was severed, their relationship with each other is now self-centered and filled with shame, their understanding of self is broken and ruled by guilt, and the world around them is no longer works in a perfect way. So the core problem is not others, it is not God, it is not the world. The core problem is me, the posture of my heart to want to rule myself and have my own way, and the sinful actions that result is my advancing the brokenness in the world and in myself. Every story in the Bible retells this problem. The Law is given by God to put a restraint on humans because unrestrained we end up with stories like the Holocaust. And we are shown over and over again that there is no way to fix this from the human side. The only hope given to the problem throughout the text of Scripture is from God’s side given through His redemption, which includes in some way forgiveness and reconciliation. In other words, the messed up stuff we do is covered, and the relationship with the Creator is restored. This is the fix. The problem is within us, the fix is external to us. And that fix is found only when Jesus comes and first lives the life we should have lived, fulfilling God’s purpose for humanity, and then sacrificing Himself for our sin, offering forgiveness and reconciliation. The entire story-line of the Bible not only maintains a consistent understanding of the answer to this question, but is a story bringing the question to its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. So, where no group of people in a room could be unified around a question like this, 40 human authors over 1500 years weave together a group of books that not only stay unified, but reveal God’s glory and our hope in the midst. No way this can happen humanly, this is God in the pages of the Bible whispering, “Take and read, this is me in the pages, I inspired this.”
But the unity is not just around these core questions. There is also an uncanny and amazing unity built around the grand story of the Bible. As mentioned, 66 books each telling their own story. But in the pages God is telling a great story that each one of these books weaves elements of the story together. And sometimes the authors themselves did not know the connections they were building. For example, in Genesis 22 we have the story of Abraham’s almost sacrifice of Isaac. God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, whom he loved and sacrifice him on a hill that God would show. First, the language about Abraham’s son will be echoed in the New Testament at Jesus’ baptism, as God speaks of His only Son whom He loves. But God takes Abraham to Mount Moriah, and at that place Abraham builds and altar and is ready to obey God and sacrifice his son. It is such a difficult story to fathom, but is part of God’s telling of His story. Abraham has laid what is most dear to him on an altar because he is a redeemed person who knows the character of his God. In the story, Isaac sees the wood and the fire, but asks his dad, “Where is the lamb?” Abraham just tells Isaac that God will provide. God rescued Isaac and provides a substitute on the top of the mountain, a ram caught in the thicket. But notice, it is not a lamb, that question is unanswered in the text. And will basically remain unanswered until John the Baptist sees Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” And the hill. At the time of Abraham it was uninhabited, as it was at the time Moses wrote this story. But later King David would put a city on this hill, which would become the capital city for the Jews, Jerusalem. And on that hill they would build the Temple, the place of sacrifice. And on the back side of that hill, one cold Friday, the Son of God would be the sacrifice for our sin, the substitute. Where God stayed the hand of Abraham and offered a substitute, He did not stay His hand on Good Friday, but let Jesus die as our substitutionary sacrifice. Now, when Moses was writing Genesis 22, no way he knew of all the implications of this story, and all the ways it would point us to Jesus. But God is telling His story through this story, and knitting the books together in a miraculous way. The unity in the overarching story of the Bible is something that only God could do, and it is so beautiful.
So, when you pick up the Bible and begin to read, realize that the unity of the Bible is proof that God is the source. The human authors are so important for our understanding of the text. People wrote in their time, out of their experience, from their personality, and to a human audience in their moment. Yet, God is behind every word, using imperfect people to perfectly pass on the inspired texts that make up our Bible. Each book has his fingerprint, and each book whispers the name of Jesus.