How Can We Know the Bible Is the Word of God?
Written by Phylicia Masonheimer | January 31, 2016
When you can walk into the nearest LifeWay and pick up a Bible, it’s easy to take for granted the availability of the Word of God. It’s even easier to read it without ever wondering where it came from! But in today’s culture of relativism, more and more people are asking how we know the Bible has any authority for our lives. How do we know it’s the “Word of God”?
The Old and New Testament Canons
A canon is a standard of measure—a reference point of truth against which new philosophies can be measured. A closed canon is a list of books to which nothing can be added or taken away. The Bible is made up of two such canons: the Old and New Testaments. These sets of books were carefully compiled by the early church fathers in a process that took several hundred years following the ascension of Christ.
The Old Testament canon was accepted in similar form to its use in Judaism (in the first century A.D., Christians were often viewed as a Judaic sect) and was compiled into a canon with less contention, as Jesus Himself stood on the truth of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12, 22:39-40) and was the fulfillment of them (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4).
The New Testament canon was slower to develop. The first list of books and letters is estimated to have been compiled around the time John completed the Book of Revelation (A.D. 98), but the list we recognize today—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and so on—was finalized closer to the fourth century. Councils carefully evaluated the New Testament books before including them in the canon, making sure they consistently represented how God had revealed Himself in the Old Testament as well as through the testimony of the apostles.
Aren’t There Discrepancies in the Bible?
One of the popular arguments against the Bible is that there are contradictions in the text. There are a few things to note on this subject. First, Scripture—particularly the Gospels—often presents several different views of the same situation. When different authors write about the same event, the style and perspective are bound to contain variables. This does not mean the text is less inspired or true. Many of the “discrepancies” involve a retelling of eyewitness situations. The message remains consistent, even if Mark’s story differs from Matthew’s.
Second, the manuscripts that contained what we now know as the Bible were copied and recopied by scribes throughout the ages. In transmission, “typos” would be inevitable at times. Theologians throughout the centuries have studied multiple versions of the manuscripts, checking and double checking them against each other, translating from Hebrew to Greek to English and into many other languages around the world. The translations we have available today are the product of centuries of careful handling of God’s Word. While there is the possibility of human error in transmission of the text, the Word of God itself remains inerrant in its content and message.
Why Is the Bible God’s Word, Not Another Religious Book?
The Bible documents God’s faithfulness to man and His efforts to reach mankind with love and redemption. This is the defining quality of Christianity. While every other religion centers around man reaching out to God by doing good deeds or living a specific lifestyle, Christianity depicts a God who reaches out to man.
This defining quality of the Biblical account comes down to God’s grace. The sinful world in which we live was never His intention, but He continues to strive with us, showing mercy and patience in a world that is everything opposite of His original design. In His grace He lets us live and choose: choose to follow Him and the design He lovingly created, or live our own way. It’s the same choice He gave at the beginning. This freedom to choose is one of the greatest testaments to the grace of God—that in His sovereignty, He does not force us into a relationship with Him. Love is a choice.
Just as we choose love when we enter a relationship with God, we choose faith when it comes to God’s Word. Although archeology and secular documentation consistently support biblical accounts, some people just won’t be convinced that the Bible is true. In the end we must believe that the Word of God truly is inspired by our Creator, and that takes faith that He exists and trust in His character. An open-minded study of the Bible reveals the “scarlet thread” that runs from Genesis to Revelation: God’s gracious redemption of the people He created and His desire to have a relationship with them.
The Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). We can trust it. And we can trust its Author.