makes the 66 books of the Bible so special? Has God written
any other books?
In this chapter we look at inspiration-the way God has caused
the Bible to be written.
2 Peter 1:12-2:3
Near the end of his life, the apostle Peter wrote his second
letter with some final instructions for the first century
believers. He particularly warned them about the false teachers
(2:1) who would arise in their midst and who would tell “stories
they have made up” (2:3). In contrast, the prophets
and apostles spoke the words of God himself. Peter explained
that his message rests on two solid foundations: his eyewitness
account of Jesus and the testimony of the prophets.
1. Which event is Peter referring to in 1:16-18?
2. The prophets were “carried along by the Holy Spirit”
(1:21). Does this mean they had no choice in saying and
writing the words they did?
3. Is Peter writing his own words or those of God?
4. How could the believers distinguish between the false
teachers and true apostles like Peter?
The word inspiration literally means God-breathed. The Bible
is “inspired” because the words have been breathed
by God himself. The apostle Paul described the Scriptures
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that
the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good
work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So the Bible contains the writings of God, rather than the
writings of human authors. Those men who wrote them down were
not writing their own words-God was writing through them.
Therefore, Peter described the Psalms as “Scripture
. . . which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth
of David”. Acts
1:16, See also Hebrews 1:1 Similarly,
when Paul was quoting a passage in the book of Isaiah, he
introduced it by saying “The Holy Spirit . . . said
Acts 28:25 through Isaiah the prophet . . . ”.
When we read the Bible we need to remember that these are
the words which God intended us to read. The Bible does not
only contain interesting words that help us to understand
how God has dealt with people in the past; it is also a book
of divine revelation. It teaches us the truth about God and
about his plan with the earth-in God’s own words.
The power of God’s word
The inspired Scriptures were produced by God’s power
and so they can have a powerful effect on the reader. In Hebrews,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any
double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul
and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Jesus said that the words he spoke “are spirit and they
are life”. John 6:63
Paul said that the word of God “is at work in you who
believe”. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
There is a dynamic power in the Scriptures. If we seek God,
he will work through his word to guide us and teach us.
does inspiration work?
God appears to have inspired the Bible writers in a number
of different ways. Sometimes he seems to have inspired what
they said word for word to the point where they did not always
understand what they wrote. As Peter wrote
prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you,
searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to
find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit
of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings
of Christ and the glories that would follow.(1 Peter 1:10-11)
At other times, the writer seems to have had more freedom
of expression although the thoughts expressed were inspired
by God. For example, the writings of Paul reflect his own
distinctive style and language, but they were still inspired
In whatever way the Holy Spirit worked to inspire the writers,
we can be sure God did not allow them to make errors.
Jesus said that “the Scripture cannot be broken”
(John 10:35) and “the Scriptures must be fulfilled”
word of God:
15:22-23; 23:26; 24:13; 2 Samuel 7:5; Isaiah 18:4; Jeremiah
2:1; 20:9; Joel 1:1; Acts 1:16; 28:25; 2 Timothy 3:16;
Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 3:15-16.
power of God’s word:
6:63; Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:4; 1 Thessalonians
2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 1:3; 4:2,12.
for false prophets:
13:1-5; 18:21-22; Jeremiah 28:9; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians
5:21; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:2.
Unfortunately, we no longer possess the original documents
that were written. Instead, each book of the Bible has been
copied many times and then translated into other languages.
In the process, there are a few places where errors have crept
in due to copying slips or translation mistakes.
A copyist may have written down an incorrect word or letter
which was subsequently reproduced by other copyists. This
is much less of a problem than was once thought. Strict rules
for copying the Scriptures were developed which meant they
have remained almost unchanged despite being copied for centuries.
In particular, the Dead Sea Scrolls prove that there have
been very few copying errors.
Translation errors occur in every version as the translators
inevitably select wording that tends to support their own
doctrinal views. But these occasional slips can be identified
by checking other versions and by comparing what is written
with other parts of the Bible.
Dead Sea Scrolls: ancient scrolls
including the Old Testament and dating from about 100 B.C.
to A.D. 100. They were discovered near the Dead Sea in Jordan
The canon of Scripture
The “canon of Scripture” means those writings
that are inspired. How do we know which books are part of
inspired Scripture and which books are not? Some Bible writers
stated explicitly: “This is what the LORD says . . .
”. e.g. Jer 2:1; Joel 1:1 Other
books do not claim to be inspired but they quickly became
recognized as inspired because the person who wrote them was
accepted as a prophet of God.
The Bible provides two tests for deciding whether a prophet
1. he should predict the future accurately; Deuteronomy
2. he should not teach people to turn away from God. Deuteronomy
Men such as Moses, Isaiah and Ezra had visions from God and
made prophecies that came true. Therefore what they said and
what they wrote were accepted as the work of God. The books
they wrote formed the Old Testament which was well established
by the time of Jesus.
It did not take long for the New Testament writings to be
considered “Scripture” also. For example, the
gospel of Luke was considered Scripture by the time Paul wrote
his first letter to Timothy. Similarly, the writings of Paul
were considered Scripture by the time Peter wrote his second
letter. see 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Peter 3:15-16
Because the Bible provides God’s instructions for us,
we can be confident that he has also ensured that it contains
all the books we need.
66 books of the Bible are the inspired word of God.
inspired the writers to give a message without errors.
the Bible has been copied and translated, some minor errors
have been introduced.
word of God is powerful, providing direction in our lives
and a vision for the future.
Bibles contain 66 books. But some Bibles contain several
additional Old Testament books.
Most Roman Catholic Bibles will contain an additional
seven books in the Old Testament and several additions
to other books. Some Bibles include up to seventeen extra
books or parts of books. These additions to the Old Testament
are known as the “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden”
books). They were written between about 200 BC and AD
100, well after the Old Testament was completed.
Some of the books of the Apocrypha are mainly historical;
for example, 1 Maccabees describes the history of the
Jews about 100-150 years before Jesus. Other books are
pure fiction: Tobit tells the story of a man named Tobit
who travels with his guardian angel, Raphael, and fights
off the demon Asmodeus with the organs of a fish! Another
fictional story, Judith, contains major historical blunders:
for example, it says Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Assyria
in Nineveh instead of the king of Babylon. Many of the
books falsely claim to be written by people mentioned
in the Bible. For example, Baruch claims to be written
by Jeremiah’s friend but was certainly written much
later. Similarly Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon
were written hundreds of years after Solomon, not by Solomon
None of the books of the Apocrypha came from prophets
and so they were never accepted as inspired. The Jews
sometimes quoted from the Apocrypha, but in the same way
that we would quote Shakespeare - interesting literature
but definitely not the work of God.
1. How would you respond to someone who says “How could
you believe the Bible? It is full of errors and contradictions!”?
2. In 1 John 4:1, we are told “do not believe every
spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from
God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
(a) What sort of tests were they to apply?
(b) If someone today claims to be inspired, what sort of tests
should we apply to test their claims?
1. The prophets gave short-term prophecies to demonstrate
that they were inspired by God. One of Ezekiel’s shortterm
prophecies is in Ezekiel 12:12-13. How was this fulfilled?
[Hint: see 2 Kings 25.]
2. Does God speak to us in any way other than through the
Bible? Give Bible references to support your answer.
Want to know more?
Truth, by Alan Hayward (Printland Publishers, revised, ed.,
1983) Chapter 14
living word: how the Bible came to us by D. Banyard (published
by the Christadelphian, 1993). 214 pgs
Journey from texts to translations, by Paul D. Wegner (published
by BridgePoint Books, 1999). A well-written comprehensive and
illustrated account of how the "canon" of Scripture
came about, and how the Bible was transmitted through the years.
It also provides a detailed account of the history of English
translations to 1999.
2. Reasons to believe the Bible
4. Does it matter what you believe?
5. Bible reading
8. The Spirit of God
30. Old Testament prophecies of Jesus