The Bible, Its History, Infallibility and Authority

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 3:14-17 (NIV

Summary:

The presupposition of Christianity is that the Bible, as originally written down by people inspired by God, is the infallible word of God in written form. The Bible contains the divine answer to the problems we humans face throughout our lives, as well as the directives of God concerning how He is to be worshiped and served. While some problems of translation do exist, Christians believe that God Himself maintains the integrity and accuracy of His words through the work of the Holy Spirit.

General Information: The Bible contains 66 different books by various authors. The 39 books of the Old Testament were written in Hebrew, and the 27 books of the New Testament were written in Greek and Aramaic. Below is a list of the books of the Bible and their possible authors (if known).

Book(s) -- Author(s)

Just as infallible Jesus was born, by the work of the Holy Spirit, through a sinful woman, so was the infallible scripture born of the preceding list of authors by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Why do we have the particular 66 books listed?
The collection of the 66 books which we know as the Bible, is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The collection of the Old testament books is known as the Canon of the Old Testament and the collection of the New Testament books is known as the Canon of the New Testament. The word "canon" means standard or rule, and as applied to the scripture means that those particular books which are "canonized" have been granted authority as a rule of faith. By whom? is the natural next question. The answer is by God, Himself.

To quote Edward J. Young, "When the Word of God was written it became Scripture and, inasmuch as it had been spoken by God, possessed absolute authority. Since it was the Word of God, it was canonical. That which determines the canonicity of a book, therefore, is the fact that the book is inspired of God." The concept of canonicity only has validity in the context of Christian theism. The following outline organizes the various assertions that Christians must make about the authority and infallibility of the Bible.

The Authority of Scripture

  1. The Bible proclaims its own authority
    1. Scripture is inspired by God
      (II Timothy 3:14-17)
    2. Belief in Scripture is necessary and commanded
      (I Corinthians 14:36-38, John 5:46-47, I John 4:1-6)
    3. God has promised to preserve His word for His people in all generations
      (Matthew 5:17-18, John 10:35, Isaiah 59:21)
    4. The New Testament writers all referred to the Old Testament as authoritative
    5. The New Testament claims the same authority for itself as the Old Testament
      (2 Peter 3:14-16)
    6. "As Christians we receive the Bible as the Word of God which cannot be judged by any higher standard. The Word of God speaks for itself; it is not verified by any other than the self-verifying Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
  2. The External World cannot prove that the Bible is incorrect when it speaks of the world
    1. There has never been a proven contradiction between what the Bible says and the reality of the world
    2. There has never been a proven contradiction between the historical accountscontained in the Bible and in other recorded histories.
  3. Personal Experience proclaims the Bible
    1. Christians accept the Word of God because of the Holy Spirit's testimony to their hearts that the Bible's own claim is true.
    2. Christians are allowed to believe in the Authority of the Scripture because of the spirit of discernment granted by the Holy Spirit, and because the Christian does not presuppose that he himself has the authority which God possesses to render something authoritative or not.

Again, however, it is necessary to note that points A,B, and C can only be valid in the context of Christianity. It is God Who speaks to Christians through the Bible and Who allows the devil to make the Bible seem foolish to non-Christians: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:18, NIV) and "...by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (II Corinthians 4:2-4, NIV).

Why do Protestants not accept the Apocryphal books as authoritative?

The Apocryphal books are about 15 books which were composed during the last two centuries before the birth of Christ and the first century afterwards. The Apocryphal books are:

Since 1546, the Roman Catholic Church has considered some of these books to be inspired and has included them with the Old Testament. These are, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, and some supplements to Esther and Daniel. The Roman Catholic Church and a few other churches are the only religious groups which consider any of the Apocryphal books to be divinely inspired scripture. The following outline gives reasons why most protestant Christians do not believe in the Apocryphal books as authoritative.

The Primary reason is that The Jewish Canon, that Scripture which Jesus Himself believed in did not include the Apocryphal books.

  1. The number of books in the Hebrew Old Testament is 24 in the Hebrew method of counting which is equivalent to the 39 books we have in our English translations with our English methods of counting.
  2. The apocryphal books were only included in the Old Testament as late as the non-Christian Greek translation called The Septuagint. In other words, the Jewish Old Testament that Jesus believed to be authoritative did not contain the Apocryphal books. The Septuagint was translated around 300 B.C. while the earliest copies that we have are from 300 A.D. and it was between these 600 years that the Apocryphal books crept into the Greek Canon, yet they never appeared in the Hebrew Canon, nor did Jesus ever quote them or consider them to be authoritative.
    1. No New Testament book references an Apocryphal book as authoritative.
    2. Jesus says in Luke 24:44, "He said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (NIV).

The noted theologian Cornelius Van Til captures the attitude that all Christians should possess concerning the Bible in his book Why I Believe in God , which is written as a letter to an atheist:

"So I readily grant that there are some 'difficulties' with respect to belief in God and His revelation in nature and Scripture that I cannot solve. In fact there is mystery in every relationship with respect to every fact that one faces, for the reason that all facts have their final explanation in God Whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and Whose ways are higher than my ways."

And further...

"Without such a God, without the God of the Bible, the God of authority, the God who is self-contained and therefore incomprehensible to men, there would be no reason in anything. No human being can explain in the sense of seeing through all things [limited world view of humanity], but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all. By my belief in God I do have unity in my experience. Not of course the sort of unity that you want. Not a unity that is the result of my own autonomous determination of what is possible. But a unity that is higher than mine and prior to mine. On the basis of God's counsel I can look for facts and find them without destroying them in advance. On the basis of God's counsel I can be a good physicist, a good biologist, a good psychologist, or a good philosopher. In all these fields I use my powers of logical arrangement in order to see as much order in God's universe as it may be given a creature to see. The unities, or systems that I make are true because [they are] genuine pointers toward the basic or original unity that is found in the counsel of God."


For further information about this subject, the following books are highly commended because of their attention to detail, and their authors' commitment to hold tightly to the doctrines of God as set forth in the Bible.
Sources Used:
Why I Believe in God Cornelius Van Til
Revelation and the Bible Edited by: Carl F.H. Henry
God's Inerrant Word Edited by: John Warwick Montgomery
Basic Christianity John R.W. Stott
Every Thought Captive Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
In Defense of the Faith Cornelius Van Til
The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable? F.F. Bruce

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.. .. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1,14 (NIV)
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