Christians believe that the Holy Scriptures, or the Bible, are the inspired Word of God in written form. They can be viewed as divine communication or self-disclosure to humanity. The Scriptures identify God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and are an invitation to a close relationship with this transcendent Being. They include information unattainable through science or reason, addressing life’s ultimate questions such as the purpose of life and the hereafter.
The Bible is not literally the Word of God – its contents weren’t just dictated by God for individuals to write down word for word. Nevertheless, the book expresses, sometimes in metaphor, God’s interactions with and plan for humanity — past, present and future. The ultimate divine revelation was in the coming to earth of Jesus Christ who brought the message of God’s Divine Love as the way to salvation and at-onement with the Father. In teaching this vital truth, he also exemplified it by his life.
God-given inspiration is affirmed in the pages of the Bible itself. Phrases such as “the Word of the Lord came to me” appear numerous times and indicate that some of the Old Testament writers knew that they were commissioned by God to write what they did. New Testament writers affirmed the inspiration of the Old Testament writings – the only Scriptures they had – referring to them as the words of God pertaining to historical and prehistoric realities.
Jesus Christ affirmed the divine inspiration of the Old Testament. He saw various passages as fulfilments in himself. He also spoke about significant events and persons mentioned in the Old Testament as past realities. After his death and reappearance in spirit body, Jesus used Scriptures to show his disillusioned disciples that he was indeed the prophesied Messiah.
The Bible was written over a period spanning about fifteen hundred years by humans from different walks of life, different time periods, different locations, and in three different languages. It has since been translated into hundreds of modern languages. The writers wrote in their own style, influenced by their background, education, culture, and political situation of the time. Using a range of literary genres, they compiled legal precepts and histories, recorded their joys, sorrows, frustrations, and praises addressed to God, recounted stories, wrote epic poetry, and verbalized dramatic symbolic dreams and visions. New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures in light of the life of Jesus and their own experiences.
Furthermore, today’s Bible is the product of a complex process of document selection, copying, editing, compilation, and translation – all human activities subject to error. As a result, there are intertwining strands of teachings and even contradictions. Because of these factors and the complexity of the canonization process, the Bible is a set of writings with great diversity — yet a book that has inspired millions, pointed them to their Creator, and set them on the way to salvation. Without the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within the vast and varied range of human endeavours, such result would be highly unlikely to be achieved by humans alone.
Because of the limitations of language and the incompatibility between language as a human phenomenon and God as divine spirit, some have suggested exploring the term “Word of God” as also metaphorical. This allows many concepts to have both a literal and metaphorical meaning, and to be interpreted at several levels. It makes room for imagination to search for depths of meaning beyond the literal. As a result, it enables a range of interpretations and insights, which are also influenced by the understanding, experiences, and prejudices that readers bring to their Bible reading and study. The Holy Scriptures then remain a living word for all people everywhere, as well as becoming like a treasure chest with endless possibilities of new discoveries.
The inspiration of the Holy Scriptures is further attested to by the fulfillment of prophecies; the confirmation by history, archeology, and science; and above all, the changed lives of individuals. Through the message of the Bible, people from all levels of society have been led from darkness to light, received new life, and become transformed.
Ultimately, however, no reasoning or argument can prove the inspiration of the Scriptures, or even the existence of a Creator God. Eventually, each person must prove to themselves whether the Bible reveals God, whether this God answers prayers, and whether the Bible is relevant in today’s world. These are all matters of faith based on personal experience.
Those who desire to learn about God, get to know Him as a loving Heavenly Father, and have Him change their life can ask Him to do so. The evidence strongly suggests that their earnest petition will be supernaturally and encouragingly answered.
© Eva Peck, 2015
Photo: Alex Peck