Teaching on the Authority and Infallibility of the Bible
(This material was taken from the workbook, "Prove All Things" from the
Overcoming Life Series Study Series)
by Betty Miller
The Bible Is Our Standard
"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, throughly furnished unto
all good works."
2 Timothy 3:16,17
The Holy Bible was written by more than 40 human
authors inspired by the Holy Spirit over a period of about 14 to 18 centuries. According
to the above scripture all of the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The word
"inspired" in Greek is theopneustos, which means
"God-breathed." The Apostle Peter wrote that holy men composed the books of the
Bible as they were "moved" by the Holy Spirit. Also the Apostle Paul wrote
to his student Timothy that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God. The authors of
the Bible wrote spontaneously using their own minds and experiences while influenced and
directed by God.
"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 1:20,21).
The Two Parts of the Bible
The Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament
with 39 books and the New Testament with 27 books. It was written in two different time
periods. The New Testament was written over a period of about 60 years, following the
death and resurrection of Christ. The Old Testament was written from the time of Moses up
to about four hundred years before Jesus was born, when the "book" (scroll) of
Malachi was written. Malachi was the last book to be written in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament was written in the original Hebrew
language, with some chapters in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek with a few
additional phrases from Aramaic, the commonly spoken Judean language of the day.
The word "testament" is the King James-era
English word for "covenant," or today what we might call a "contract."
Therefore, the books of the Bible are divided according to the two blood covenants God has
made with mankind. The Old Covenant was made between Abraham and God (Genesis 15)
and covered Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob, the natural race of Israel. The
New Covenant was made with Jesus as both parties, God and man; the sacrifice; and
the mediator. A mediator is someone like an attorney who works out the clauses to a
contract with both parties.
The new covenant covers members of all races who will
accept Jesus as Savior and Lord by faith. The new covenant fulfilled the promise of the
old (Hebrews 8:6) and, ratified by the blood of Jesus, extended God's plan for
reconciling man to Himself to cover all races, nations, and cultures (Galatians 3:28,29).
"Testament" or "covenant" also can
mean what we today call a will--a last will and testament. So in that sense, the
new covenant is the spiritual way in which Jesus left (willed) all of the blessings of
Abraham (Galatians 3:14) to those who become born again under the new covenant and
are also children of Abraham (Galatians 7). In addition, He willed to us redemption
for our (Adamic) sin natures that enables us to become new creatures (2 Corinthians
5:17) and have eternal life with God, the Father.
God always has dealt with man through relationships. Adam
and Eve were in a personal relationship with God before they fell into sin. In every age
afterwards down to Abraham, God had at least one man (such as Noah) who would come into a
relationship with Him and through whom He could execute His plan for the redemption of
With Abraham, God "cut" a blood covenant to
cover Abraham and his descendants until Jesus would come (Genesis 15:8-21). The ten
commandments and the other health, civil, and religious statutes that were given to Israel
some four hundred years after the Abrahamic covenant spelled out certain principles God
laid down for them to live by and which the Israelites were to obey because of
the covenant. This became known as "the Law," which actually was the details of
how the covenant would work in the nation and in their lives.
The Law was God's Word for that period and the standard by
which man lived in order to receive the blessings or curses of the covenant. In any
covenant, there are "assets" or good things that go with keeping it. Breaking a
covenant or contract, on the other hand, means trouble, which in Bible terms is called
receiving curses. However, Paul made it very clear that the Law never took the place of
the Promise (the covenant) to Abraham. Jesus was the "promised seed of Abraham"
who was to inherit all of the promises, so through Jesus, all those who are born
again also inherit these promises of blessings (Galatians 3:29).
People became a part of the old covenant by being a member
of the people of Israel through faith and obedience to God, whether they were
born into one of the tribes or whether they joined themselves to one of the tribes (Deuteronomy
4:6,13,34; Exodus 12:19; and Isaiah 56:3-5). Reading the Old Testament
books carefully will show that, even then, the attitude of the heart was more important
than legalistically keeping the Law and more important even than being born into Israel (1
Under the New Covenant, the Law or God's standards are
"written on our hearts" (Romans 2:15), which means we have the Holy
Spirit within us to remind us of right and wrong. Once we are saved, we have the power to
overcome sin through the Holy Spirit and can receive the blessings of Abraham under the
new covenant (Galatians 3:14). This is called "living under grace."
However, since the time of Adam and Eve, God has dealt
with mankind in two ways: love and mercy (grace) when one seeks Him or wrath and judgment
for those who reject Him. Grace can be defined as "undeserved favor." Also, it
is the ability to keep the law, which is called "divine enablement." Grace gives
us power over sin, according to Romans 6:14, because we now have the "Covenant
Maker" within us.
Grace does not mean being able to break the law
and get away with it. Grace does not mean that God looks the other way when we sin. It
does mean that if we fail and break the law, forgiveness is immediately ours when we
repent. The blood of Jesus already covers us. We can still overcome, although we may not
yet perfectly be conformed to His image. We have the power or grace to become the sons of
God (John 1:12).
Criticism of the Bible Has Been Proven
Some critics of the Bible say it is simply a collection of
man's writings. Others believe it is a great "literary masterpiece," but not the
"Word of God." Those are the people who do not believe there is a God.
Others believe God's Word is in the Bible but that the entire Bible is not God's
Word. However, scholars have proven that the Bible is accurate in its depiction
of historical events that have been documented elsewhere, so the rest of it should be
considered true as well, in spite of the critics. On the other hand, even if none of the
Bible had any secular evidence, we still should believe it rather than the world's
knowledge, because it is the Word of God and is reliable.
Why Should the Bible be
Reliability depends on the accuracy of a document. There
are three tests for determining the accuracy of any document. They are:
1. The Bibliographical Test (the accuracy of the copies
that are compared, although there is a time span between them and the originals).
2. The Internal Test of Reliability (the author verifies
or disqualifies himself by known factual inaccuracies or contradictions).
3. The External Evidence Test of Reliability (the document
is authentic in regard to historical and archeological evidence or other writings).
The Bible passes all three of these tests. Research into
formerly unknown languages and excavations by noted archeologists have shown over and over
that historical events recorded in the Bible really happened. Westerners exploring the
Middle East for the past one hundred and fifty years and Israeli archeologists since the
1950s have proved the Bible is fact, not fiction. There can be no doubt that archeology
has confirmed the accuracy of the Old Testament's historical accounts, in spite of the
great skepticism expressed toward the Bible by scholars of the "higher
criticism" school (which began with German theologians in the 1700s).
For example, critics said no such place as Sela, the rock
fortress (the capital of Seir, home of Esau and the Edomites),existed. From shortly after
the time of Jesus until the early 1800s, no one except wandering Arab tribes knew where it
was. Then Anglo-Swiss explorer Johann L. Burckhardt risked his very life by disguising
himself as an Arab in 1812 and was taken into a hidden valley to a huge rock fortress with
only one narrow way in or out. Once again, the Bible was shown to be more accurate than
secular history. Today, we know this place as Petra.¹
Another example is the excavation of Shushan, which lies
some 200 miles east of Babylon. It was the capital of ancient Elam (Susiana) and, later,
the winter capital of the Persian kings. Sushan was the scene of many Biblical events in
the time of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus. When archeologists
uncovered the floor of the throne room, they found a pavement of red and blue and black
and white marble, just as had been described in the book of Esther (Esther 1:6).²
The Bible is unique in that it has survived over the
centuries with very little corruption to the text. Compared to other ancient manuscripts,
the Bible is the most accurately preserved text in existence. The discovery of the Dead
Sea scrolls in 1948 has shown the world that, if all of the books of the Bible are as
accurate as Isaiah--the scroll they have pieced together and dated to 100 B.C.--then there
have been extremely few changes since at least a hundred years before Christ. What
differences exist between modern versions and the ancient manuscript found in a cave above
the Dead Sea are minor ones that make no difference to the text itself and have affected
no Church doctrines.
Most disputes among church scholars and theologians
involve the interpretation of the words in the Bible, not the words themselves.
It makes sense that if the Bible is the very Word of God, it would be the most
persecuted book in history. And indeed it has!
French philosopher, Voltaire, predicted in 1778 that
within a hundred years, Christianity and the Bible would be swept away! In the days
of the French Revolution, the 1790s, a comprehensive effort was made to burn all of the
copies of the Bible in the country (the Roman Catholic Latin translation) and thousands of
Bibles were burned. However, Voltaire died and is only a name in the history books. Today,
more copies of the Bible exist today worldwide than ever before.
The Bible is unique, and it has been proven reliable. One
thing that proves it is Holy Spirit-inspired is the fact that, in spite of the diverse
human authors having lived across almost two millennia, the theme of the Bible is the
same. Although the writing styles vary, the unity of all of the books of the Bible taken
together are as if one person wrote them. And One Person did--the Holy Spirit.
Translation of the Bible
Compared to other ancient manuscripts, the Bible is
accepted as being the most accurately preserved text.³ The Jewish people
preserved the Old Testament manuscripts as no other ancient written documents have been
preserved. In fact, most of the other writings from Bible times have been found only in
the past few hundred years on clay tablets.
About three hundred years before Jesus was born, the
Jewish religious leaders authorized the first translation from the original
Hebrew scrolls of the Old Testament. According to Jewish tradition, 72 rabbis and scribes
made up a committee which translated the Hebrew into Greek, the common language of the
Roman Empire, in 70 or 72 days. This translation is called the Septuagint, from
the Greek word for "seventy."
About the year A.D. 500, a group of Jewish scribes called
"Masoretes" (so named from the word masora, which means "to
hand down" authoritative traditions) took upon themselves the task of ensuring
the accurate transmission of the Old Testament to future generations. Located at a school
near Tiberias, they established strict rules to be followed by all copyists. No word or
letter could be written from memory. The scribe had to look attentively at each word and
pronounce it before writing it down. Even the words and letters of each section were
counted, and if these did not add up to the newly made copy, that section was discarded
and copying started over.
The Jewish scribes had the responsibility for copying the
old scrolls as they became cracked and not able to be used. Modern scholars have
discovered several hundred copying errors, but most of those were made after the time of
Jesus by monks who copied the early scrolls and codex manuscripts. The first
scrolls were animal skins scraped thin and made into pages that were bound side by side
and rolled up. Later, scrolls were papyrus pages. Papyrus was made out of reeds found
along the Nile River and pounded to a pulp then dried in the sun. It was the first
"paper." Codex manuscripts were sheets of papyrus put together in book
form, instead of as scrolls.
The majority of scholars agree, however, that the
mis-copied words do not involve major Bible doctrines. The biggest area of confusion,
which involves history, not doctrines, seems to be in the use of numbers. For example, did
the Philistines send 3,000 war chariots to one battle or 30,000?
No other book has been so scrutinized, sifted for error,
criticized, and even vilified and attacked on such a massive scale as the Bible. Yet, it
is still read and loved by millions.
The Purpose and Theme of the Bible
The Bible's main purpose is to reveal the plan of
redemption and salvation for mankind. All Scripture should be studied in this light. Even
when the judgment of God is mentioned, it is with the purpose of bringing deliverance to
mankind. One of the Bible's purposes is that of warning man, individually or corporately,
to avoid the consequences of judgment -- God's wrath. If he so chooses, he can escape Hell
and go to Heaven.
When studied in the light of God's purpose to redeem man
through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, nothing in the Bible can put us into the
bondage of legalism (the keeping of laws in an effort to please God). Law is not the theme
of the Bible, but redemption through the grace of God.
People are brought into the bondage of legalism when they
stop studying the Word of God with the idea of redemption and salvation in mind. Many
people come under bondage, not through reading the Word, but through what someone else has
said "the Word says," quoting only a portion of Scripture or quoting a
particular interpretation of that verse.
The law reveals our sins, but God's grace points us to
Jesus and His blood to cover and atone for our sins, if we will only receive Him and be
Many people want to throw out the Old Testament, except as
interesting Bible stories and history. However, the Old and the New work together (1
Corinthians 10:11). The Old Testament was not erased; the New was simply built upon
it. The redemption plan is told in the Old Testament by "types and shadows."
People who were indirect examples of Jesus and the kinds of things He was to do when He
came were used as these types and shadows. Also, literal prophecies that directly speak of
Jesus fall into this category (Hebrews 10:1).
For example, the temple in the Old Testament was a
dwelling place for the Holy Spirit and was a literal building. Under the new covenant, the
spirits of those who are born again become God's dwelling place, individually and
collectively. Therefore the New Testament speaks of the bodies of Christians as "the
temples of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16). So the temple that was a building to the
Israelites, and later to the Jews, was a shadow, a "picture," of a time to come
when man himself could become God's "house" or "temple."
Another example is the word virgin in New
Testament typology, which means the holy and pure Bride of Christ (born again
believers, or the Body of Christ), who has not had intercourse with the world. To
those who are not Christians, things like this will not make sense. That is why Paul wrote
that the natural mind cannot understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The redemption plan is told in the New Testament through
the reports of Jesus' birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection (Hebrews 9:15).
Therefore, the Bible's main purpose is to reveal the plan of redemption and salvation for
man, which also is the theme of the entire Bible (Luke 24:27,44). The Old Testament
was the written preparation for His coming (Isaiah 40:3). The gospels
portray the manifestation of His coming (John 1:29). The Acts of the
Apostles is the propagation of His purpose (Acts 1:8). And the epistles,
the letters by several of the apostles to various early churches, presented the knowledge,
or explanation, of the mystery of Christ and the hope of glory to Gentiles, those
formerly alienated from God.
The Revelation of Jesus to the Apostle John tells us of
the consummation of God's plan, of its successful conclusion in victory, just as
Genesis tells us of the beginning being marred by sin. Each part of the Bible needs the
others to be complete. Therefore, the Old Testament was the preparation for the
Lord's coming; the gospels were the manifestation of the Lord's coming; Acts was
the propagation of the Lord's Gospel; the epistles were the explanation
of the Lord's Gospel, and Revelation tells of the consummation of the Lord's
Gospel. "Paradise lost" in Genesis becomes "paradise regained" in the
Book of Revelation.
¹Williams, Walter G. Archaeology in Biblical Research
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965), p. 55.
²Thompson, Frank Charles, Editor. The Thompson
Chain-Reference Bible, New International Version (Indianapolis/Grand Rapids: B. B.
Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc. and The Zondervan Corporation, 3rd printing, 1984),
"Archeological Supplement," #4437, pp. 1692, 1693.
³Comfort, Philip Wesley, edit. The Origin of the Bible
(Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992), "Texts and Manuscripts of the Old
Testament" by Mark R. Norton, pp. 152,153. Also, Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the
Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2nd Ed., 1988), pp. 91-93.