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How to study the Bible - God's Word

How to Study the Bible

Lesson One - God's Word

PART ONE: Inspiration
      We believe that the Bible is inspired.  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:..." (II Tim. 3:16 KJV)   

      The word translated "inspired" in the King James Version of the Scriptures is the Greek word "theopneustos" - a combination of the word "theos" meaning "God" ( where we get our word "theology") and the word for wind, air or breath (from which we get the English word "pneumatic" "pneumonia" etc.).  The Greek word in II Tim. 3:16 literally means "God-breathed".  This "inspiration" is much different than the inspiration an artist may receive to paint a great painting or the inspiration an author may feel to write a novel.   
      By "inspiration" we mean: "God's guidence exerted upon the human writers of the Bible so that the product of their writing retained individual personality and style, yet exactly expressing the mind of God.  It is the means God used to achieve His revelation in the Bible." (Gary Kinnaman)

      The Bible does not CONTAIN God's word.
      The Bible does not BECOME God's word.
      The Bible IS God's word!  Even an atheist has to use the Bible to describe the kind of God he does not believe in.

      As Jesus Christ is both HUMAN and DIVINE so the Bible is also.   It has both a HUMAN and DIVINE element. Some sections of the Bible are so "human" that it makes you wonder if the Bible really is inspired. Then there are the sections that are so obviously inspired it thrills you.  The Bible is a miracle book

      There are two main words used by theologians to define inspiration.   Don't let these words scare you.  They are the words "verbal" and "plenary" and are used this way:  "We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures."  Now, let me define them for you.

      "Verbal" means every word in the original languages is inspired by God.  Why would we believe such a thing?  There are several reasons:
      The linguistic argument:  Thoughts depend on completely on the very words used to express them.  Change a word and the whole thought can change.  If God really wants to communicate His will to us, then the very words He chose are important. He spoke to us so that we could understand His desires and will.  The words used originally were His words.

      The Biblical argument: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, til all be fulfilled." (Matt. 5:18 KJV)  

      Jesus being quoted here in Matthew says that the smallest part of the Hebrew alphabet will not be destroyed or left out of the Scriptures (the "jot" and the "tittle").  And here, as in other places, Jesus referred to the Scriptures as "God's word".

      The logical argument: In many places in the Scripture, the meaning of the verse or passage depends completely on a single word.   The very words are important.  Compare Galations 3:16 where Paul's argument rests upon the fact that the word in question was singular and not plural in the original writings.

      Gal 3:16 (KJV) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

      "Plenary" means THE WHOLE BIBLE is inspired.  The inspiration extends to concepts, numbers, names, and everything that makes up the Scriptures in the original writings.

      PART TWO: Transmission - How the Bible has come down to us through time.
      It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the Bible did not arrive "whole". The 66 different books of the Bible were written by different authors over a period of a thousand years.  Until the invention of the printing press in the 1500's the Bible was painstakingly composed and copied by hand, one letter at a time!  The New Testament was hand-copied for 1500 years! (Of course, this is true for all ancient books.)

      The story of the Bible coming down through the centuries is a story of Divine protection.  The number of hand-copied manuscripts of the New Testament is overwhelmingly greater than the copies of any other ancient book.  The ancient literary works of Greece and Rome are represented by as few as one surviving manuscript to as many as several hundred.  Of the New Testament however there are more than 4800 manuscripts in Greek, 8000 in Latin, and over 1000 in other languages.  So many manuscipts assures the reliablity of the text.  Comparisons can be made from one century to another as well as between languages and thus the text can be shown to be accurate.

      The finding of the Dead Sea scrolls only confirmed what the Scripture has told us and what Jesus had said about the Bible. The accuracy of the Bible as we have it, even the Old Testament, is proof of the Divine inspiration of this Book.

      PART THREE: Canonicity - the Standard
      The word "canonicity" is from the Greek word "kanon" meaning "a reed used for measuring, A STANDARD".  The dictionary defines "canon" as "an authoritaritive list."   "Inspiration" refers to how the Bible got it's AUTHORITY.   "Canonicity" refers to how the Bible got it's ACCEPTANCE.   Canonicity is concerned with recognizing the God-inspired, authoritative books of the Bible, of which there are now and finally 66 in number.

      The Canonicity of the Old Testament
      The authority of the Old Testament books was determined by whether or not a book was written by a PROPHET. A succession of prophets in Israel began with Moses, who was the great prototype prophet and who, wrote the first five books of the Bible. The chain of prophets ended with Malachi. The Talmud, the ancient non-Bible book of Jewish law and tradition, states, "After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel."  This view is also supported by other ancient Jewish sources, like the books of Maccabees and Josephus.

      Christian scholar R. Laird Hams writes, "what was prophetic was regarded as the Word of God. What was not prophetic was not regarded as the Word of God. The canon grew as the prophets succeeded one another in their ministry; it was finished, as Josephus says, when the Holy Spirit ceased speaking through the prophets in Israel. Moses, the great precursor of the prophetic line, specified tests to be applied in determining the reality of prophecy... when all these tests were applied and the prophet was acknowledged to be true, his words and writings were received by the faithful as from God."

      The Canonicity of the New Testament
      The canon of the New Testament was determined by whether or not the book was written by an original APOSTLE. Harris writes, 'The test of the Early Church was not arbitrary nor was it arrived at long after, by intuition or the general leading of the Spirit. It is actually witnessed to within the apostolic period ... The early Church was conscious that the apostles held their position by virtue of the double relationship of Christ's commission and the Holy Spirit's enduement. No other men could claim this twofold ministry, and none did. This authority extended to the ministry of the apostles to such an extent that all their words were regarded and the writings preserved.

      Another Christian scholar, Pache, writes, 'The fact is that, right from the start, the writings incontestably apostolic were considered as being themselves the Scriptures, and then were added to the already existing sacred books (of the Old Testament) .... The church was providentially kept from accepting any illegitimate books throughout the whole two and a half centuries while the canon was coming into being. They examined freely and unhurriedly the books presented to them.    At times, certain ones hesitated for a while before coming to complete agreement, but never did the believers as a whole make a definite choice which they later had to repent of.... One can therefore see an astonishing fact emerge: the church definitely and firmly accepted as divine some books unfavorable to its own inclinations, and everywhere it rejected as merely human others which would favor its inclinations the most.

      What about the Apocrypha, those "extra" books in Catholic Bibles?  (1) All were written after prophecy was recognized to have departed from Israel, that is, after Malachi  (2) Not once are they quoted by Christ or the other NT writers. (3) Jesus did not receive them as God's word. (4) With the exception of Augustine, no leader of the early church accepted them. (5) There is no 'thus saith the Lord' in any or them. (6) Even the Roman Catholic church did not accept them as God's word until after Martin Luther in the 1500's, and they did so more or less as a reaction to the new Protestant movement which was 'protesting',"Only the Bible! Only the Bible!"  The Catholic church had some doctrines that could not be proven without using these extra books. (7) They are interesting, informative, and even inspirational, but they are not 'God-breathed.'

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