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Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Claim to Be God's Inerrant Word?

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Don Stewart
In dealing with the subject of Bible difficulties, and so-called contradictions in Scripture, we must first address the general question of the nature of the Bible. What type of book does the Bible claim to be? Our first task, therefore, is to look at what the Bible says about itself.

God's Inerrant Word

As we examine the pages of Scripture we find that it claims to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God - it is correct in everything that it records.

This being the case, Christians believe there will ultimately be no contradictions between what Scripture says and between the known facts of history, science, and theology.

Claims Of Scripture

The idea that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God is the claim of Scripture itself - it is not something the church has invented. This can be clearly seen as one examines both the Old and New Testament.

Old Testament

The Old Testament itself claims to be God's Word. The writings were acknowledged as the commandments of the Lord. Moses told the children of Israel:

That you may fear the Lord your God to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you (Deuteronomy 6:2).

These commandments were to be put in the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord said to Moses:

And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets . . . and you shall put them in the ark (Deuteronomy 10:2).

Considered Inspired By All

The Old Testament was completed four hundred years before the time of Christ. First century writer Flavius Josephus listed the specific books that the Jews, at that time, considered to be inspired by God.

We have but twenty-two [books] containing the history of all time, books that are justly believed in; and of these, five are the books of Moses, which comprise the law and earliest traditions from the creation of humanity down to his death. From the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, the successor of Xerxes, the prophets who succeeded Moses wrote the history of the events that occurred in their own time, in thirteen books. The remaining four documents comprise hymns to God and practical precepts to men (William Whiston, trans., Flavius Josephus against Apion, Vol. I, in Josephus, Complete Works, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1960, p. 8).

The twenty-two books that Josephus mentions are the same as our thirty-nine Old Testament books - they are just divided differently. Josephus also summed up the Jewish attitude toward the Scripture.

And how firmly we have given credit to those books of our own nation is evident by what we do; for during so many ages as have already passed, no one has been so bold as either to add anything to them or take anything from them, or to make any change in them; but it becomes natural to all Jews, immediately and from their very birth, to esteem those books to contain divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be, willing to die for them. For it is no new thing for our captives, many of them in numbers, and frequently in time, to be seen to endure racks and deaths of all kinds upon the theatres, that they may not be obliged to say one word against our laws, and the records that contain them (Josephus, Ibid., p. 609).

It is clear from the evidence that the Old Testament was considered to be sacred by the Jews - the inspired Word of God.

The Testimony Of The New Testament

The New Testament considers the Old Testament to be the Word of God. The Apostle Paul spoke of it as authoritative Scripture:

which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:2).

He also saw the Old Testament as predicting the doctrine of justification by faith.

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith (Galatians 3:8).

Confirmation By Jesus

Finally, we have the testimony of Jesus Christ. He made it clear that He believed the Old Testament was God's revelation of Himself to humanity.

Scripture


Jesus recognized the existence of an Old Testament Scripture.

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life (John 5:39).

Word Of God


Jesus said this Old Testament Scripture was the Word of God.

Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and your mother (Matthew 15:3,4).

Unified


He also testified that the Scriptures were a unified whole:

The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).

Cannot Be Altered


Jesus also made it clear that the Old Testament could not have been altered, even in the slightest:
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).

Since Jesus demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God, His word on the matter is final. By definition, God knows everything and Jesus, being God, would know whether or not the Old Testament was His revelation to humanity. He made it clear that it was.

Four Witnesses To Old Testament

Therefore, we have the witness of the first-century Jews, the Old Testament itself, the New Testament, and Jesus Himself that the Old Testament was the inspired Word of God. The evidence is clear concerning how they regarded the Old Testament.

New Testament

The New Testament is also considered to be inspired of God for the following reasons:

Divine Origin

All throughout Jesus' ministry the divine origin of His words is stressed.

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak (John 12:48,49).

In addition, Jesus said His words would never pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:35).

That Jesus said His words would last forever hints at the idea they would be recorded.

The Promise Of Jesus

The main reason we believe that the New Testament has been inspired of God is the promise of Jesus. Before His death and resurrection Jesus made the following promises to His disciples.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26).

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:26,27).

However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come (John 16:13).

We have, at least, two promises of Jesus contained in these verses:

1. The Holy Spirit would guide these hand-picked disciples into all truth.

2.
They would be given the gift of total recall of the things He said and did.
This would guarantee the truth of their preaching and teaching as well as anything they would eventually write about Jesus.

Anticipates The New Testament

Consequently these promises look forward to a written body of truth. Those men to whom Jesus made these promises either wrote the books of the New Testament or had control over what writings were considered authoritative. Since God had already demonstrated His desire to commit His Word to writing by giving His people the Old Testament, it would follow that He would do the same in a New Testament. The inspiration of the New Testament, therefore, was authenticated ahead of time by the Lord Jesus.

In A Position To Know

Jesus was in a position to make such authoritative declarations about Scripture. He demonstrated that He was God's Son by His resurrection from the dead.

who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).

Therefore Jesus is the final authority on all matters in which He speaks. His word settles the issue (for thorough documentation of Jesus' authority, see our course The Case For Christianity).

Specific Statements Of Other Writers

Apart from the four gospels, the New Testament makes other specific statements about its own inspiration. The Apostle Paul said that his writings were the commandments of the Lord.

If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).

In the first letter that Paul wrote, he stated that his commandments were to be received as the Word of God.

And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Paul also emphasized that all Scripture is God-breathed.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Nothing To Be Changed

The disciple John emphasized that no words of Scripture are to be changed.

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life (Revelation 22:18,19).

Accepted As Scripture

Although the concept of a completed New Testament may not be found, we do have the concept of the writings being considered as Scripture. Simon Peter compared the writings of Paul to other Scripture:

Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his letters . . . which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of Scripture (2 Peter 3:15,16).

Consequently the idea of a written New Testament can be found within the pages of Scripture. The words of the New Testament are equated with the words of God.

Conclusion

The words of Scripture, in both Testaments, are the inspired Word of God - the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. This is the unanimous testimony of the authors.

Purpose

Finally, we should remember that the ultimate purpose of Scripture is to make its readers wise unto salvation. Paul wrote to Timothy:

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

John made it clear why he wrote his gospel.

Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30,31).

The Scriptures were written to create belief in the Person of Jesus Christ - the one way to reach the one true God.

Summary


1. Christianity believes and teaches that the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, has been inspired by God. This however, is not a claim that was developed by the church over a period of time. The idea that the Bible is inspired by God is the claim of the Bible itself.

2.
Jesus confirmed that all parts of Scripture were inspired. Since He has demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God, He would be in a position to know the extent of the Bible's inspiration.

3. The Scripture claims to be God's Word, therefore the claim ought to be examined. The consequences of ignoring its message can cause someone to spend eternity apart from the living God. Therefore the matter of the nature of the Bible is of the utmost importance for humans to consider.


CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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