Part 3 Special Revelation the Bible
20 • Where did the Bible come from?
God, in His power and wisdom, inspired people throughout the history of the world to write down what He has said to them and what He has done (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16). These records are very important to us because they show us who God is and what His will for us is. The written account of what God has said to humans is called the Bible. ‘Bible’ means, ‘collection of books’. It is an account of God’s words spoken over two thousand years from about two thousand BC to about 85AD.
God told Moses how the world was created and of Abraham and His family in Genesis 1-50. God mainly revealed His word to the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, centuries ago. But God also spoke to other cultures and nations of the world in different ways, especially through the inner witness of His Spirit in their hearts, through the conscience (Romans 2:15) and through the general revelation of His creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-23). God used more than 40 people to write His words found in the Bible. The Bible consists of 66 books (See Lesson 23) separated into two sections – the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament records God’s words spoken before Jesus was born into this world, and the New Testament records God’s words after this event.
Some of these books are historical records of God’s actions throughout history; others give account of what He spoke. Some prophecy about the world’s future and some tell how God judged sinful nations. Some are written as poetry, songs to God, wisdom-literature—such as the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes—and letters by God’s messengers (apostles) written to God’s people teaching them about God’s divine words. There is also apocalyptic literature like the books of Daniel and Revelation. Many people throughout history have tried to destroy the Bible, but God has protected and preserved it through the centuries. God’s people made many copies of the original manuscripts (called the autographa) before there were printing presses and electronic media. There is no other book in history with more handwritten copies than the Bible (more than 4500 manuscripts of the New Testament alone)! It has been translated into more languages than any other book in the world.
Some people say that there are errors in the Bible and that people have changed God’s words. The original manuscripts of all the different books in the Bible were without fault or mistake. Because so many centuries have passed by and because there are literally thousands of copies made of the whole Bible or parts of it, we are not sure which are the originals or if we still have them. It is a remarkable fact that of all the manuscripts that we have of the Bible (comprising more than 5500 copies of parts of, or the whole Bible), most of them correspond word for word. If you take human fallibility and error into account when copying manuscript after manuscript by hand over many centuries, it is quite understandable that there would be a few errors. Most of these differences in the manuscripts that exist today are of grammatical nature. But remarkably, no truth about God, Jesus Christ, God’s standards of right and wrong, what sin is, God’s justice, how to obtain eternal life and how to live a life pleasing to God, written in the Bible, has been changed, falsified or distorted! The book of Proverbs 30:5, 6 says, ‘…every word of God is pure, He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.’ And in Psalm 119:89 it is written, ‘…forever your word is settled in heaven.’ Jesus also said in John 10:35, ‘the Scriptures cannot be broken.”
Many people would argue that because we do not know whether we have the original manuscripts of the Bible, it is impossible to know the true, authoritative and original words of God given to the primary authors. We must realize that the Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew and some parts in Aramiac, (the book of Daniel) and that all the books of the New Testament were written in Greek. Yet, because we have so many manuscripts in Hebrew and in Greek available to us today, and because of the fact that most of them correspond word for word, it is not only possible but certain to determine the original meaning and intent of the Holy Spirit, and the exact words of God given to the original authors.
Some people say, especially followers of Islam, that they are uncertain which translation or which Bible to read because there are so many, especially in English. We must make one point clear: any translation is only authoritative (to be recognized as God’s true words binding on our consciences, to be obeyed and believed to be true), in as much as it corresponds with the original manuscripts in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures. And because we have so many manuscripts it is possible to determine what the original meaning and words given by God were and what the intent of the Holy Spirit was, as people were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20, 21).
One reason why there are so many translations in the English language is because people view the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible differently. Some Bible translators view God’s word in the original as inspired and infallible only to the extent of conveying the theological intent of the Holy Spirit in each portion. Others view infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible in the sense that each word in the Bible was chosen by the Holy Spirit and the people who wrote it down were superintended by God to write each word exactly as God wanted it. Nevertheless, even if you compare all the recognised translations of the Bible in the mainline Protestant churches you would come to the same conclusion as to who God and Jesus Christ are, what God’s standards for right and wrong are, what sin is, the way to eternal life and how to live a godfearing life.
Reality to consider: The fact that more than three hundred prophecies and predictions in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s life, prove conclusively that the Bible has divine origin.
Read: 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:19-23; Romans 2:15; Psalm 19:1-6; Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 119:89; John 10:35.