Where did the Bible come from?

Where did the Bible come from?

“There is nothing in the Bible that staggers me. There are many things I do not understand, I do not pretend to understand, never in this world shall understand. But that would be a very poor God who could be fully understood by the human. That would not be Infinite which could be measured by the finite. You must not expect to weigh the thunderbolts of Omnipotence in an apothecary’s balances.” T. Dewitt Talmadge

If ever a book could be called a “miracle” it surely is The Bible! Briefly note the following:

The 39 books of the Old Testament were written over a period of about 1500 years. The Bible is not chronologically arranged, but lists the books according to subject. There are five divisions to the Old Testament.
1) Law – 5 books – Genesis to Deuteronomy
2) History – 12 books – Joshua to Esther
3) Poetry – 5 books – Job to Song of Solomon
4) Major Prophets – 5 books – Isaiah to Daniel
5) Minor Prophets – 5 books – Hosea to Malachi

Here there are 27 books, and again, there are five divisions.
1) The Gospels – 5 books – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
2) History of the Early Church – 1 book – Acts of the Apostles
3) Paul’s Letters (Epistles) – 13 books – Romans to Philemon
4) General Epistles – 7 books – Hebrews to Jude
5) Prophecy – 1 book – The Book of Revelation

The following will help to answer questions, such as: How can we know the 66 books of The Bible are reliable and without error? What’s with all the manuscripts? What does “the canonization of Scripture” refer to and mean? What about the trustworthiness of The Bible? So let’s begin.

A) How Can We Know the 66 Books of the Bible Are Reliable and Without Error?

The God of the Bible is a speaking God. God by His nature is self-disclosing. He wants His creation (human beings) to get to know Him, love Him, obey and follow His precepts. This is clearly stated in Hebrews 1:1-2, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various way, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” So this verse clearly states that God spoke to His people in both the Old Testament days and the New Testament days. The very first chapter of John’s Gospel informs us that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is the “the Word”, the Messenger and the message of God. In the absence of the personal presence of Jesus from the time of His ascension until the time of His return, the Bible is the authoritative speaking of God.
The divine source and authority of the Scriptures assure us that the Bible is also infallible or, without error. How so? It is simply not capable of misleading, deceiving or disappointing its readers. The Bible is truth! ( II Sam. 7:28; Ps. 119:43, 160; John 17:17; Col. 1:5)

While there have been attempts down through the centuries to discredit and dispute the contents of the Bible, one after another alleged mistakes and discrepancies have been proven false. For example, some so-called discrepancies were just a matter of a Hebrew word (Old Testament) or Greek word (New Testament) having more than one meaning, just as some of our English words do. For example, the word “bail”. The word has two common but different meanings. It can mean to clear water, and it also can mean the release of a prisoner. The Bible will lead no one astray. “It is the revelation of God as our Creator and Redeemer; a personal God who loves us and is concerned about us; a God who has a plan, who sent His Son to die for us (I Corinthians 15:3), and who will continue to do His work until Satan is crushed, death destroyed, and a new heavens and earth are established.” (Bible Doctrines – A Pentecostal Perspective by William W Menzies and Stanley M Horton Chapter 1 Page 28)

B) What’s With All the Manuscripts?

In existence today there are 1,700 fragments of the Hebrew Old Testament and more than 4,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Manuscripts were written on papyrus, which consisted of two slices of Egyptian water plant pressed together. So naturally, they have not been preserved. Vellum, a much- improved writing material, began to be used around the Fourth Century. There are
several copies from this era that are still in existence. – Dr Tim F La Haye Here are some manuscripts of the New Testament. The SINAITIC MANUSCRIPT, about 340 AD written in Greek and housed today in the British Museum. This manuscript was discovered by accident in the Monastery of St Catherine at Mt Sinai. Some pages of it were found in the hall of the Monastery waiting to be used to light the monastery fires. Fortunately they got rescued. The VATICAN MANUSCRIPT, about 350 AD, is also written in Greek and housed in the Vatican Library in Rome. It was not shown to the public for centuries. One famous Biblical scholar was eventually allowed to study it for several days; he revealed he had memorized it and so the Pope in 1889 permitted it to be photographed and released to the libraries of the world. The ALEXANDRIAN MANUSCRIPT, about 450 AD, is written in Greek and it’s located in the British Museum. It was presented to King James I of England in 1627. There are many other such manuscripts in addition to these just mentioned.

C) What Does the Canonization of Scripture Refer To, and Mean?

The autographs (original writings) we know and believe were inspired by God, but we no longer have them. Likely they were simply worn out by frequent use and repeated copying. So how do we know that the content of the Bible is trustworthy? Well, that’s where the “Canon” comes in. The word “canon” means “a rule, a standard, a measuring rod.” Therefore, a book considered canonical is a book that has met certain criteria, or standards. By the time of Jesus and the apostles the 39 Old Testament books were solidly accepted by Judaism as inspired by God. In fact, Jesus repeatedly made reference to the Old Testament, recognizing that God Himself was speaking (Matt 19:4; 22:29). Further proof of the confidence that the New Testament writers had of the Old Testament is the fact that there are hundreds of quotations of the OT passages scattered throughout the New Testament. Coming to the NT Canon, in AD 367 the most orthodox theologian of that day, Athanasius, meticulously went through all the books being circulated in the Mediterranean world purporting to be apostolic writings. His examination disclosed 27 books, the ones we have today, to be God’s Word. Thirty years later, quite apart from Athanasius’ study, a church council met in Egypt to discuss the issue of what books were genuinely Scripture. They applied four tests.

Bible Doctrines – A Pentecostal Perspective by William W Menzies and Stanley M Horton
1) Apostolicity: Was the book the product of an apostle or a close associate of an apostle?
2) Universality: Was the book widely accepted and used in the churches?
3) Contents: Did the subject matter of the book appear to be on an equal plane with known Scripture?
4) Inspiration: Did the book bear the special quality that speaks of divine inspiration?

D) What About the Trustworthiness of the Bible?

The authors of all 66 books of the Bible (about 40 of them) were human beings like all of us. But they were “moved upon” by the Holy Spirit to author these books of history, poetry, prophecy etc.

The Bible itself says the Scriptures were “God-breathed”

II Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Peter explains in his second epistle that “Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved upon (carried along), by the Holy Spirit.” II Peter 1:21 These authors recorded what God told them, but their personalities and the specific situations they faced were factors in their writing too. God did not “dictate word for word” what they were to write. That would remove their uniqueness and their own personalities. The Scriptures are solely the product of Almighty God through human authors. They are sacred because of their value to humans and they provide for us today the knowledge of God that is necessary for our salvation.

The Bible also provides authoritative guidance for us regarding direction needed for this life and life hereafter. This authority is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, and it does so in abundance. It gives us all we really need to know regarding guidance in the “do’s and don’ts” of life here on earth. And it provides preparation guidelines for the future in our eternal home. We have then the clear statements of Scripture itself. We know the painstaking ways in which the manuscripts were written over the centuries, and we have the testimonies of countless early Church Fathers, men like Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, Origen, Jerome and Irenaeus. Martin Luther, the great German theologian and Reformer of the 16th century declared, “The preacher must preach only the Word of Holy Scripture, for the Bible is the very Scripture of the Spirit. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks, and they are His Word. To hear or to read the Scriptures is nothing else than to hear God.” Pentecostal Evangel of The Assemblies of God December 11, 2005

Over the centuries there have been countless attempts to get rid of the Word of God. Bible burning exercises, persecution of those found with a Bible in their home even to this very day; just incredible antiphony and hatred for God’s Word, yet it continues to be the most sought after book by millions to this very day! And of course, the invention of the printing press in about 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg totally revolutionized the way the Bible could be reproduced, as well as all literature. In 1455 he used it to print the Gutenberg Bible, which is one of the earliest books in the world to be printed from movable type.

We started with the declaration that this book called the Bible is a miracle book. This brief study surely has demonstrated to those with an inquiring and open mind, that such is truly the case!

Stewart Hunter – Monthly Contributor

Stewart lives with his wife Gudrun in Stittsville, ON. For over 55 years Stewart has served as a pastor as well as in varied positions in The PAOC. Stewart and Gudrun are members of Bethel Pentecostal Church, Ottawa.