What is the Bible? It’s the most widely printed and read book of all time, but on a college campus you’ll hear many opinions about the place of the Bible today. Some see it as a book of wisdom, illuminating the common experience of humanity. Others are interested in the Bible as literature or historical artifact. Many see the Bible as outdated, without a place in today’s society. What does the Bible say about itself?
The Essence of the Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 says:
All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible makes the claim of being the word of God. The phrase “God-breathed” is wonderful. The Bible is not just a statement, or a set of facts, but the breathing out of God Himself. As a note on this verse from the Recovery Version of the Bible explains:
God’s speaking is God’s breathing out. Hence, His word is spirit (John 6:63), or breath. Thus, the Scripture is the embodiment of God as the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore the very essence, the substance, of the Scripture, just as phosphorus is the essential substance in matches. We must strike the Spirit of the Scripture with our spirit to catch the divine fire.
The Origin of the Bible
Who wrote the Bible? In a university environment, it’s common to hear the claim that the Bible can’t be authoritative, since it was written by men. Here’s what the apostle Peter said about the word of God (in 2 Pet. 1:20-21):
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of one’s own interpretation; for no prophecy was ever borne by the will of man, but men spoke from God while being borne by the Holy Spirit.
These verses make it clear that men did speak the words we have in the Bible, but they were not the source of the speaking. The source was God Himself.
While these verses set a clear principle of God’s speaking, especially in the Old Testament, what about the writings of the New Testament? Hebrews 1:1-2a reveal a wonderful advancement in God’s speaking:
God, having spoken of old in many portions and in many ways to the fathers in the prophets, has at the last of these days spoken to us in the Son.
Jesus wasn’t just sent to bring us God’s speaking, He is God’s speaking, God’s Word (John 1:1, 14). We’ll see more about this in future posts. After the four Gospels, which contain Jesus’ speaking, the New Testament contains the epistles, which means letters. These epistles are also not simply man’s word. As 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says:
And because of this we also thank God unceasingly that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but even as it truly is, the word of God, which also operates in you who believe.
So what is the Bible? The Bible is the breathing out of God. It’s His speaking in men borne by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, His speaking in the Son in the Gospels, and His speaking as the Holy Spirit in the epistles. This word operates in those who believe!
Further Reading: Matt. 4:4; John 17:17; John 6:63; Heb. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:2
Verses and footnotes from The New Testament Recovery Version.