Is the Bible Really God’s Word?

HomeChristianity and the BibleIs the Bible Really God’s Word?

As with most things on GodWords, this very good question came from a reader. Because I was asked, I answered. Yes, there are some Bible verses I could include here. No, I’m not going to include them here. That’s a different article entirely. This one’s my opinion. Agree or disagree, my view of Scripture is pretty simple: either it’s from God, or it’s not.

For the record, the question was more like ‘should Christians just accept the Bible as a whole, or should we be skeptical of different parts of it?’. I’m going with accepting it as a single, trustworthy set of documents.

If it’s not from God

If the Bible isn’t from God, there’s no reason to pay attention to it at all. Reading it would be optional, like any other simply-human writing. It may contain some wisdom, and some good advice, and some sound principles… but so do a lot of other books.

If it is from God

If the Bible is from God, it seems safe to assume a few things:

I believe the Bible is from God. It explains reality as I see it… the nature of the world, human nature, and more. It contains a lot of prophecies that have been fulfilled, which merely human books lack. While it was written by around 40 authors over 1500 years, it tells a single, cohesive story. I could go on about why I believe the Bible is fully trustworthy, but you get the point.

Assuming these things are true, the Bible should be accepted as-is. By that I mean that it adequately and accurately communicates what God wants us to know.

I see nothing in the Bible to justify interpreting God’s message from multiple points of view. Instead, we see the opposite. Peter wrote that Paul’s writings are Scripture, and that some people distort what he said. The implication is that what Paul wrote wasn’t subject to every individual’s personal opinion. Paul wrote that there’s one gospel, and anyone who teaches another gospel should be under God’s curse. Jude wrote that the gospel was delivered to the saints once for all… explaining that the gospel isn’t something that changes over time, or is subject to reinterpretation. In other words, the Bible is an unchanging communication from God to humanity – to you and me – that needs to be read, studied, and lived.

That we have different interpretations of parts of Scripture has nothing to do with whether the Bible is TRUE, but with whether we adequately understand it. That makes sense. In Acts 2 we see that new Christians studied the apostles’ teaching. Paul told Timothy to study. The author of Hebrews said that his readers no longer even tried to understand… that instead of being able to teach, they needed someone to explain the basics to them again.

To be sure, there ARE parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand. Most of that difficulty comes from our refusal to actually study what it says. We hear or read a single verse, or a short passage, and try to understand it… but seldom learn about the author, the audience, and the situation that created the need for someone to write. We seldom learn how to study each passage in light of the rest of Scripture, too. Many things that seem unclear are made very clear when we understand a separate but related passage.

The foundation of the question is whether we should take the Bible’s contents “literally.” The problem is with the word “literally.” It means “as in literature,” like a fictional story where things are symbolic in nature. We’ve reversed the meaning, so now when we say something is “literally true” we mean that it’s actual… that it should be taken at face value. We SHOULD take the Bible literally, but in the older, technical sense: taking the type of literature into account.

When Jesus said, “I am the Door,” we shouldn’t take that “literally.” Jesus is not actually a door. Instead, Jesus is using figurative language to say that He acts, in certain ways, LIKE a door. When we read Joshua 5:1, we shouldn’t believe that the hearts of the Amorite and Canaanite kings actually “melted in fear.” We learn that they were really, really scared. We should take these verses “literally,” as in “the kind of writing tells us how to understand this.”

We run into trouble when we don’t take different types of writing into account. Some read the Proverbs and believe that they’re all promises from God. That’s not what Proverbs is. Yes, the Proverbs ARE Scripture… but a simple reading makes it clear that it’s wisdom, not promises. When we fail to account for the type of literature we’re reading, we will inevitably either create our own bad doctrine from our misunderstanding, or simply conclude that the Bible isn’t true at all. Here’s a short list of some of the types of literature (the genres) we find in the Bible:

Histories aren’t the same as personal Letters. Poetry isn’t the same as Law. They’re different, so we acknowledge what kind of writing we’re looking at. Plus: in each genre, we will find some language is straight-forward, while some is symbolic. Properly interpreting the Bible means studying to learn which is which.

So, to answer the question: God’s message for us may require some interpretation, but that interpretation isn’t a matter of our personal perspective. It’s a matter of studying to understand God’s perspective, as He’s revealed it to us. When reading that Jesus is a Door, we shouldn’t guess about what He meant. We need to know what He meant when He said it. That way, we receive God’s message instead of creating our own.

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