God’s inspired word Refs

What 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?

God’s words
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 like this:

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, we read

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.

How 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

The 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 by God.
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” (Mark 14:49).

The word of God:
Numbers 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.
The power of God’s word:
John 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.
Tests for false prophets:
Deuteronomy 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 in 1947.

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 is inspired:

1. he should predict the future accurately; Deuteronomy 18:21-22
2. he should not teach people to turn away from God. Deuteronomy 13:1-5

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.

The 66 books of the Bible are the inspired word of God.
God inspired the writers to give a message without errors.
As the Bible has been copied and translated, some minor errors have been introduced.
The word of God is powerful, providing direction in our lives and a vision for the future.

The Apocrypha
Most 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 himself.

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?
God's Truth, by Alan Hayward (Printland Publishers, revised, ed., 1983) Chapter 14
 God's living word: how the Bible came to us by D. Banyard (published by the Christadelphian, 1993). 214 pgs
 The 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