The Bible

            A bible is a book of books or any big tome; usually something that is regarded as comprehensive and authoritative. However, when used with a capital B it normally means the Christian scriptures. It is often then spoken of as the Holy Bible. The word Bible is not in fact used in the Christian scriptures but rather we have such expressions as the scriptures, scripture, holy writings and sacred letters (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Romans 1:2, 2 Timothy 3:15). The scriptures are frequently spoken of in the New Testament but the word is only used once in the Old, in Daniel 10:21 where we have the “scripture of truth” .

            Christians quite often speak of the Bible as being infallible. However, this is not strictly accurate as infallible means, cannot make a mistake. The expression can rightly be applied to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but not to a book which cannot do anything, but is simply a record of what persons have done or said.

            Then the scriptures are often spoken of as the Word of God. Again, this is not strictly accurate. The scriptures record what God has said and also a lot else. It quite often records what men have said, such as what the three friends of Job said. This was not all correct as God said: “Ye have not spoken rightly of me, like my servant Job” (Job 42:7).

            There is a hymn which I am very fond of: “Oh, Wonderful, Word !”, but taken literally there are statements in it which could be taken to mean that everything in the Bible was marvellous like John 3:16. One cannot say this of passages such as John 19:15 “ Take [him] away, take [him] away, crucify him.”.

            Looking at the matter simply one can say that the writers of scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit to record God’s words and also a good deal of what men said; all for our instruction (2 Timothy 3:16/17). Much of the Bible is simply history. One will not go into here all the passages that speak of the inspiration of scripture, whether explicitly or implicitly, as others have done it comprehensively. 

            What all this amounts to is that while the scriptures are authoritative we need to often discriminate between what God says and what men have said in their heart such as some statements in Ecclesiastes like “Be not overmuch wicked” (chapter 7:17).

            Generally Christians read the scriptures so that they may profit from them and consequently look for some spiritual significance in what they read. I am not knocking this, but it should also be considered that the scriptures often have what may be called a military use (Ephesians 6:17). For instance, the lists of names in the Old Testament such as those in 1 Chronicles. These could be pointed to as evidence that the Bible is not just fairy stories which often begin: “Once upon a time”. No one making up a story makes up a list of names - parents, grandparents, etc. going backwards over many generations. It may be noted here that all the generations terminate in Christ. We do not get lists of generations in the New Testament after Christ.

            To site another case. A few years ago I read a booklet about Epilepsy. The writer said that the apostle Paul was an epileptic. I do not think his intension was to denigrate the apostle, but to say something that would be a comfort to those that suffered from that complaint by showing that one could still be a great man and suffer from it. The writer did not point to any evidence to support what he said regarding the apostle. Maybe he had in mind what happened on the Damascus road (Acts 9:7; 22:9; 26:13/14). Paul saw a light as epileptics sometimes do and also fell to the earth as epileptics usually do (It was at one time called the falling sickness). However, this was not just something that just affected Paul because those travelling with him also saw the light, heard the voice and also fell to the earth. They can’t all have been epileptics ! They did not understand what was said, possibly because they did not know Hebrew which was the language in which Christ spoke to Paul (known as Saul at the time) (Acts 26:14).

            Apart from the above it may be noted that Moses lived less than a thousand years after the flood and “was instructed in all [the] wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). For the latter reason alone, quite apart from the matter of divine inspiration we should not lightly dismiss what Moses has to say about historical matters.


January 2010