"We have to admit that there is an immeasurable distance between all that
we read in the Bible and the practice of the church and of Christians."
Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, Wm. B.
Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI.
The Bible as the Word of God
Are not people that accept the
Bible as the word of God, because that is the cultural norm, without holding
it to a higher standard being intellectually irresponsible? They were not
around when any part of it was written, they do not personally know the
authors, they are largely ignorant of the context, situation and conditions
under which the various books and passages were developed, they can only
partially surmise what the author believed overall, they are generally
ignorant of the unfolding processes in the development of the two—old and new—canons
over hundreds of years, they are ignorant of the different original
the translational problems and errors that have been incorporated, and they
are generally ignorant of the overall content and its many
inconsistencies and incompatibilities.
Of course, If you just believe
(assume) that the Bible is the word of God, then you don't think about any
of these issues.
The scholars that are NOT
ignorant of these aspects are generally wary and careful, reluctant to
overwhelm the ignorant believer with all the information that can be
disillusioning or negative to the usual biblical believer and his default acceptance. They are also
generally reluctant to say that they believe, first of all because they
don't, and have to strive to keep an open mind, and secondly, they are
reluctant to say they DON'T believe because this
is how they make their living and best maintain their status, respect
For those that accept the
premise, the variety of perspectives
or ways to relate to this issue is wide. Some never get past the idea that God
dictated the text to various prophets who faithfully wrote his
words down. Others see God working more in the background through
hampered or convoluted methods to keep his word pure enough despite all
the foibles of man and his methods. Some think that the Holy Spirit
guided the writing of the passages and/or the canon selection process so that—properly understood—the
material incorporated reflects the truth and has stood the test of time.
Some see the Bible as comparable to a newspaper, with the good news and the
bad, and you have to decide for yourself which stories or accounts represent
the good or the bad. But they believe the Holy Spirit is always available to us
to help winnow out the meaning of God's message.
Dispensationalism takes the
position that the two canons represent two deals or covenants that God made
with his people. The first one didn't really work out well, so God
really stretched himself to come up with a better one, an agreement
easier for us fallen, perverse humans to keep or honor.
But there IS general agreement
that the Bible is a finished product! The last book in it, the book of
Revelations, says so, and gives a dire warning to any that would add to it.
Or so a certain passage is interpreted to mean this, and nobody tries
directly. What they do many times is substitute other materials and focus on
However, what the Bible-is-the-word-of-God
believers CANNOT do is use Jesus or his message to authenticate the
foundation for this belief. They cannot point to explicit directions from
Jesus that his disciples should write out accounts or their thoughts. They
even make a case that Jesus expected the development of a new canon. They
cannot show that Jesus unreservedly endorsed the Old Testament scriptures,
much less passages in the New Testament that hadn't even been written yet.
Jesus quoted from ancient writing that are NOT in the standard canon. Underlying all the claims
and arguments that are put forth regarding the Bible as the word of God, is the
ASSUMPTION that the Bible is the word of God. It is profound circular
reasoning, a violation of logic known as petitio principii,
assuming that which you are trying to establish.
The books that have been
written about the Bible are legion, and we do not want to write another
here. What is clear enough is that only four books in the New Testament
focus on what Jesus said and did while on earth, and only one of these is
actually an eyewitness account rather than a somewhat tenuous compilation of
popular but limited verbal accounts of hand-me-down pieces.
There are probably less than
a handful of event accounts where the lack of correct placement in the
timeline of Jesus' life may have even a minimal impact on our thinking.
Only one comes readily to mind. The Temple cleansing comes very early in
the Gospel of John, in the second chapter, and late in the Synoptic
Gospel accounts (Matthew chapter 21, Mark chapter 11, Luke chapter19).
Some commentators interpret this as there having been two Temple
cleansings, one early in the ministry and one late, but this is
doubtful. Let the reader decide, but this author can't come up with much
significance one way or the other as to these three options.
For the believer in Jesus, the
alternative to accepting the Bible as the word of God is to be intellectually
responsible and to see that Jesus was the demonstration, the unveiling, the
adequate communication from the unfallen to the victims of evil, and to
focus on HIS life, HIS words and message, and to consider all other material
as non-authoritative at best, simply helpful and supplementary, and
misguided or wrong at worst. See: Selecting and
Rejecting Synoptic Gospel Material