Lesson 06 第六课

THE BIBLE: GOD’S WORD


I. The Origin of the Bible

A. Uniqueness

1. The Bible is a collection of 66 books.  There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.  The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, while the New Testament was originally written primarily in Greek.

2. The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning “books.”

3. The Bible was written over a 1,500 year period, spanning over 40 generations, with more than 40 different authors from every walk of life, including kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars, etc.

4. The Bible’s subject matter includes hundreds of controversial topics.  Yet the biblical authors spoke with harmony and continuity from Genesis to Revelation.  There is one unfolding story: God’s redemption of mankind.

B. Canonicity

1. The word “canon” comes from the root word meaning “reed” in the Greek (kanon).  The reed was used as a measuring rod and eventually came to mean “standard.”  The word “canon” as applied to Scripture means “an officially accepted list of books.”

2. Originally early Christians had the Old Testament and other individual books and letters that were passed around from group to group. There were different tests used by early Christians to examine circulated materials to determine if they were to be included in Scripture:

a) Is it authoritative? - Did it come from the hand of God?

b) Is it prophetic? - Was it written by a man of God?

c) Is it authentic? - The ancient church had the policy, “If in doubt, throw it out.”

d) Is it dynamic? - Did it come with the life-transforming power of God?

e) Was it received, collected, read, and used? - Was it accepted by the people of God?

3. The development of the Old Testament canon was a long process.  However, it is generally accepted that the finalization of the acceptance of the 39 books we have in our Old Testament occurred at the Council of Jamnia about A.D. 90.

4. As with the Old Testament canon, the development of the New Testament canon was also a long process.  In the East, Athanasius was the first to name exactly the 27 books of the New Testament as exclusively canonical.  In the West, at the African synods of Hippo Regius (A.D. 393) and Carthage (A.D. 397 and 419) the 27 books of our New Testament were accepted.

II. The Bible Must Be Our Only Source for Doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16)

A We must not rely on creeds.

1. A creed is a formal statement of religious belief.  Throughout the history of Christianity, many have chosen to be confessional rather than creedal.  A confession designates what people do believe; a creed what they must believe.  A confession is voluntary and serves to inform, educate, and inspire; a creed is required and serves to discipline and exclude.  A confession offers guidelines under the authority of Scripture; a creed tends to become binding authority, in subtle ways displacing the Bible.

2. In religious history there have been those who thought that the Bible was not clear enough to be understood by the average person, so they developed creeds.

3. However, we believe that every person has the right to go to the Word of God for himself or herself.  People do not need a mediator, whether it be a priest or someone with a great education, to teach them the Word of God.  Now, it is good to learn from others who know the Bible better than we do, but we must also search it out for ourselves.  Also, only the Holy Spirit can make the Word come alive.

B. We can trust in the reliability of the Bible.

1. People often make statements like, "You can't trust what the Bible says.  Why, it was written almost two thousand years ago.  It's full of errors and discrepancies."

2. However, there is more evidence for the reliability of the Bible than for almost any ten pieces of classical literature put together.

3. There are now more than 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Add over 10,000 Latin Vulgate and at least 9,300 other early versions and we have more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence.  No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestations.  In comparison, the Iliad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive.

4. In addition, in no other case is the interval of time between the writing of the book and the date of the earliest existing manuscript as short as in that of the New Testament.  The books of the New Testament were written in the latter part of the first century; the earliest existing manuscripts are of the third century - from 150 to 200 years later.  The closest other work of antiquity was the writings of Pliny the Younger with a time interval of 750 years between the original and the earliest existing manuscript.  For the works of Plato there is a 1,200 year gap.  For the works of Aristotle the gap is 1,400 years.

5. Well, beyond this, how accurate is the Bible?  Archaeologically speaking, as stated by William F. Albright, one of the world's greatest archaeologists, "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history."

6. Possibly the greatest evidence for the reliability of the Bible is in its fulfilled prophecies.  In no other religious literature do we find the accuracy of fulfilled prophecy.  Biblical predictions recorded sometimes hundreds of years prior to their happening are fulfilled in minute detail.  Let's consider only the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah.  The Old Testament contains over 300 references to Jesus' coming.  Of those 300, sixty are considered major prophecies, all of which were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Using the modern science of determining probability, in reference to only eight of these prophecies, the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.

III. The Bible Is the Inspired Word of God  (2 Peter 1:20-21)

A. The Word of God is divine in its origin.

1. One thing that is clear about God is that He endeavors to reveal Himself to mankind.  Is it not reasonable that a revealing God would inspire a truthful, dependable, authoritative, inerrant record of His revelation?

2. The Greek word translated "inspired" is theopneustos.  Theo is "God", and pneustos is "breathed" - thus, "God-breathed."

3. When we claim that the Bible is inspired, there are some things we do not mean.  For example, we do not mean that the Bible is inspired in the same sense that other great works of literature and art are inspired.  Neither do we refer to partial inspiration, the idea that some parts of the Bible are inspired and others are not.  Neither do we believe that the authors of the biblical writings were mere robots under God's complete control.

4. Many believe the Bible was inspired as stated in 2 Peter 1:21 - "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."  In other words, although the biblical authors wrote only what God wanted them to write, they did not lose their individuality; each writer used his own style and method of thought.

B. The Word of God is alive!

1. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is "living."  The Greek word is zoa, from which we get our word "zoology," the study of life.  Zoa, then, means "life."

2. As already noted, the word "inspired" means "God-breathed."  Just as God's inbreathing gave life to mankind, His inbreathing gives life to the written Word.

3. The Bible breathes today!  It breathes the breath of God!  This living Word gives life!

IV. The Bible Has Great Power! (Jer. 23:29)

A. An Indestructible Power!

1. Hebrews 4:12 says not only that the Word of God is alive, but that it is "powerful."

2. The power of God's Word is indestructible (1 Peter 1:25; Matt. 24:35; Matt. 5:18).

3. People have burned the Bible!  They have burned its translators!  They have made condensed versions of it, cutting out what they did not want.  Nations and rulers have sought to eliminate it from their cultures and from the earth.  Yet, almost every home in America has a Bible.  The Bible may be found in many languages all over the world.  It exerts a powerful influence, even in places where non-Christian religions are dominant.  Therefore, we must conclude that the Bible is under God's unique protection.

B. A Convicting Power!

1. It is "living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword... it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12)

2. The word "judges" comes from the Greek word kritikos, from which our word "critic" comes.   The Word of God peers into our lives, observes, judges, and determines what is right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect.     


REVIEW QUESTIONS

  1. How many books are in the Bible?

  2. What is the one unfolding story of the Bible?

  3. What were five tests used by early Christians to examine circulated materials to determine if they were to be included in Scripture?

  4. What is the difference between a confession and a creed?

  5. What is one of the greatest evidences for the reliability of the Bible?

  6. The Greek word translated “inspired” also means what?

  7. Hebrews 4:12 says the Word of God is what?