BRUSH UP ON YOUR THEOLOGY; 1. BIBLIOLOGY
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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Bibliology at its simplest is the study of the Bible termed, The Bible, from a Greek word, Biblos, a Book, or the Holy Scriptures, which believers regard as the inspired word of God. Facts about the Bible, the number of books it contains (66), its many authors (about 40), over what time period it was written (1500-1600 years), over what geographic area (3 continents; Africa, Asia and Europe) and such like are good fundamental facts to know and memorize but these are of secondary importance. The matters of prime importance relate to the very nature of the Bible, its divine purpose and how we are to regard it in matters of morality and godly living.
One of the most important matters we need to know is whether the Bible is really God’s Word because if it is, then it carries supreme authority and is necessarily relevant to our lives. And if it isn't then we can ignore it with impunity because it would be just another book of good literature. There are two sources which can address our concerns, the first is within the Bible itself and the second is external to the Bible.
Let us examine the first source internal to the Bible.
The Bible is forceful in making its case for it leaves us in no doubt as to its origin and its usefulness in our life, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17). If this was the only scriptural reference in the entire Bible affirming God’s authorship, then it would be enough for it tells us unmistakably that the Bible was not generated from the minds of normal people but from the supernatural mind of God.
Other strong Bible references abound;
"And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (Exodus 24:4)
" The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:7-10)
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts." (Jeremiah 15:16)
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18)
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
"But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (1 Peter 1:25)
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:19-21).
In addition the internal evidence that the Bible is God's Word relates to the detailed prophecies outlined in the Bible that have come true in precisely the way and the time prophesied by God's prophets. Only God and God alone can do this based on his omniscience and foreknowledge and these he has communicated through his prophets and they are recorded in the Bible. References are plentiful, but see Isaiah 53: 1-12; Jeremiah 21: 1-14; Daniel 2:1-47.
Further internal evidence relates to the unity of the Bible in that it contains 66 individual books written by about 40 individual authors over a period of approximately 1600 years and yet the original manuscripts (the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Koine Greek) are error free and totally united. There are no contradictions in the Bible and where there are ostensible contradictions, then correct explanations and right understanding will soon dispel them. We are confident therefore that the Bible is inerrant and can be fully trusted as the Word of God.
Next let us observe the second source external to the Bible.
Not only is there evidence from within the Bible that it is the word of God, there is also corroboration by external evidence. The church was established during the time of the Roman Empire that was extremely hostile to Christianity along with Judaism that was severely opposed to Christianity. Both these bodies working together and separately were relentless in their opposition and yet the church was formed and the Gospel was propagated across the entire empire by unlearned, poor, despised individuals. How could these vulnerable disciples do such a thing and succeed so marvelously? Because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and took their authority from God and relied totally on his promises.
Here is how Adam Clarke in his Bible commentary puts it, "Yet before the preaching of these poor, comparatively unlearned, and totally defenseless men, idolatry fell prostrate; the heathen oracles were struck dumb; the philosophers were confounded; and the people were converted by the thousands; till at last all Asia Minor and Greece, with Italy, and the various parts of the Roman empire, received the gospel , and abolished idolatry ! Had not this doctrine been from God, and had not he by his almighty power aided these holy men, such effects could never have been produced."
The Bible has a rich history of recorded events which can and indeed are checked for accuracy just like any historical record, and archeological finds continuously verify the Biblical record proving its truthfulness and reliability when dealing with spiritual matters and religious doctrine. Examples of the effects of Noah's flood are turning up everywhere; geologists are finding and unearthing relics affirming the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; wells dug by Abraham in the places he mentioned are being discovered; Kings and Queens mentioned in the Old Testament are parallel recorded in cuneiform writings of other civilizations like the Akkadians and Babylonians and the list goes on.
Another external source is the character and integrity of its many human authors who throughout history have been examined with meticulous care and found to be sound people of unimpeachable honesty, who were not only willing to die for what they believed to be the Word of God but many actually sacrificed their lives for it knowing that God had spoken to them. This is particularly true as it relates to those who had seen and spoken with the risen Christ and who marched unapologetically to a martyr’s grave. Many believers in the early church were murdered and of the twelve apostles eleven were martyred; the only exception being John the Divine.
Roman and Jewish history have shown that during the ministry of Jesus Christ facts as regards his ministry and miracles performed were never denied even though they were done in the midst of relentless opposition and very hostile religious leaders. It stands to reason that if your enemies who are seeking your demise cannot deny what is done for all to see then how can anyone thousands of years later say those things did not happen? Here is how Adam Clarke addressed this, "A thousand persons could have confronted the falsehood, had it been one. These appeals are made - a challenge is offered to the Roman government, and to the Jewish rulers and people - a new religion has been introduced in such a place, at such a time, this has been accompanied with such and such miracles! Who can disprove this? All are silent…none appears because none could appear. Now let it be observed that the persons of that time, only, could confute these things had they been false; they never attempted it; therefore these facts are absolute and incontrovertible truths"
An additional external source is the durability of the Bible over the many centuries in which it faced hostile and unrelenting attacks to destroy it. Emperors tried, beginning with Diocletian, Despots tried, the Communists tried, Atheist and Agnostics tried and everyone has failed most lamentably. The Bible has proven to be indestructible because its creation and sustainability is not by the will of man but by the Sovereign Will of God and demonstrates that it is indeed the Word of God.
The inspiration of the Bible.
Bibliology not only deals with the Bible as being the Word of God, it also addresses the question as to whether it is inspired. Did God inspire the Bible; did he guide and influence its writing in concept as well as details? Yes he did and the previous quote from 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 demonstrates this as well as other scriptures.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Corinthians 2: 12-13)
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5: 17-18)
The remaining question here and now is how did God inspire the Bible. The most common and known way is that God effected a powerful influence on the mind and spirit of the writer in such a way that it was supernaturally clear what had to be written. This awesome influence of God meant that not just the concept emerged, but the very means of giving it expression became crystal clear to such an extent that it fully expressed the will of God. This is truly awesome because after all, the Bible was written the final author could say this, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19) Adding or subtracting from the scriptures is forbidden (Deuteronomy 5:2)
Direct supernatural promptings of the mind was not the only way God inspired the writers for other ways are recorded in the Bible. God's will was revealed through special angels, "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…" (Exodus 3:2) and this angel turned out to be God himself; through dreams and visions (Daniel 2:19); through a clear voice (Matthew 3:17) and through angels generally (Genesis 19:15) and (2 Kings 1:3)
The foregoing shows us that although man wrote the scriptures, it was man’s hand dipping the quill in ink and scripting the text but it was God who dictated and guided the entire process. It follows therefore, that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, inerrant in the compilation and applicable to all mankind for all time and is immutable. We can therefore trust the Bible and be guided by its doctrines and principles and submit to its authority, knowing that God requires us to do exactly that.
Finally we look at the canonicity of the scriptures.
We have read many books about God and many of those books have said some wonderful things about God, but none of them can lay claim to being scripture. So how is one to know what things about God are scriptures and what are not? The answer lies in the process and product of canonicity.
This process in which the church fathers in the various Christian counsels recognized if a book measured up to a standard is canonical and was completed by AD 303 for all time in keeping with the principle in Jude 3; to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. As a consequence the 66 books of the Bible are canonical and the Apocrypha, used by Roman Catholics for example, are not.
Paul told the church at Corinth that they should base their faith, not on man's wisdom, but on God's revelation, " That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:5)
The Old Testament was accepted as canonical based on primarily two things; first the Jews traditionally accepted all the 39 books, among them there were no disputes, and secondly Jesus quoted from 37 of the 39 thus endorsing them. Before Jesus Christ was born all the 39 books of the Old Testament were settled scripture and carried the authority as divinely inspired and that is why Jesus quoted from them so frequently. Most of the problems with canonicity relate to writings done during Jesus’ time and since and the early church subjected the books to the “truth test” because lots of bogus writings were in circulation. The “truth test” consisted of three components which were essential for writings to be accepted into the early church.
1. Whether the author knew Christ or the apostles. This was important because the church is built on Jesus Christ and the apostles, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:20)
2. Whether the book concurred with the other accepted books. This was a sign that the mind of God had directed the writing for it showed unity with all the other inspired work of God.
3. Whether the book was error free. For example the Apocryphal book of Tobit would not be acceptable because it contained errors, e.g. Tobit claims to have been alive when Jeroboam revolted (931 B.C.) and when Assyria conquered Israel (722 B.C.), despite the fact that his lifespan was only a total of 158 years (Tobit 1:3-5; 14:11)
Since the end of the third century (AD 305) the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament have been accepted at the canon of scripture of the church universal notwithstanding that the Roman Catholic church has, at the council of Trent in 1545, accepted the Apocrypha.
Books by this author you may wish to read.
THINGS EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW (e-book)
Volume 1 – Five tough facts to be faced
STAND UP TO THE DEVIL (e-book)
Volume 1 – You must first identify him
BASTARD: A STORY OF REDEMPTION(e-book fiction)
ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT ON GOD’S CLOCK (Hard copy)
ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT ON GOD’S CLOCK (e-book)
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