Everyone has a “Bible.” Not everyone has the book containing the old and new testaments that we call the Bible, but everyone has a “Bible.” If by Bible we mean an ultimate source of authority, then everyone has a Bible. Your Bible might be the power of human reason and rationality; it might be your parents; it might be your philosophy teacher; it might be another religious book; it might be the person you see in the mirror, but everyone has an ultimate source of authority. Everyone has a Bible.
I trust the Bible containing the old and new testaments as my ultimate source of authority. Why do I trust the Bible? In a series of posts, I will attempt to answer that question.
1. I trust the Bible because the Bible claims to be the word of God. If the Bible did not make this claim of itself, then it would be ridiculous to impose such a belief upon its pages. I believe the Bible is God’s divine revelation because it claims this authority for itself. The Bible makes this claim in various ways. Sometimes the biblical narratives simply record God’s speech to his people and to his prophets. Some parts of the Bible record God’s commands in the style and structure of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty. In the giving of the law at Sinai and in Deuteronomy, for example, God communicated to his people in covenant form to establish the terms of their relationship with him. The people of Israel recognized these writings as God’s very word and instruction to them. At other times, the Bible records the direct speech of God spoken through the prophets: “Thus sayeth the Lord . . .” (Isa 48:17; Jer 9:23; 33:2; etc.). Psalm 119 repeatedly identifies earlier parts of the Bible, specifically the Torah, as the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 claims that the entirety of Scripture has a divine origin. Peter claimed Paul’s writings were on par with other scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). The author of Hebrews directly quotes passages of the Old Testament referring to the Holy Spirit as their author (Heb 3:7; 10:15–16). In various ways, the Bible repeatedly claims to be the word of God.
2. I trust the Bible because the Bible authenticates itself as the word of God. Other books claim to be the word of God but they lack the kind of self-authenticating power contained in the old and new testaments. Books like the Book of Mormon and the Quran claim to be God’s word, but they do not measure up to the standard of internal consistency. The Book of Mormon for example contains numerous documented and verifiable errors. It is historically unreliable and collapses on the basis of its own claims.
The Bible, however, authenticates itself by the sheer power of its unity, consistency, and reliability. The Bible’s unity is simply breathtaking. It contains 66 individual books written by 40 different authors on 3 different continents during nearly a 2,000 year period. Yet the individual books unpack one unified story from Genesis to Revelation. This drama of redemption focuses on God’s actions in human history to establish a redeemed people for the glory of his name. From creation to new creation, from Adam to the new Adam, from the sacrificial lamb to the sacrifice Christ, from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion, the Bible progressively reveals God’s saving actions in human history culminating in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the supreme witness to the Bible’s own internal unity since he is the one who binds the epochs of redemptive history together. The Law, Prophets, and Writings, bear witness of him (Lk 24:44). Old and new testaments come together in the person and work of Jesus. Israel and the Church find solidarity together as the people of God by virtue of their union with Christ. Consistency characterizes the content of the Bible from beginning to end. Each individual story fits with the others in presenting a consistent picture of God, mankind, and the way of reconciliation between God and humanity.
The depth of theological precision and metaphysical insight is part of the self-authenticating power of Scripture. The Bible plumbs the depths of ultimate reality deeper than any human could ever conceive. Examples like the ontology of mankind made in the image of God, the complexity of the attributes of God, the doctrines of election, justification, sanctification and glorification all have an other-worldly origin. The Bible alone presents a doctrine of salvation that is foreign to human logic. No human being would ever conceive of redemption as coming through a crucified king who substitutes himself in the place of sinners so that only through faith, apart from any human merit, might they discover eternal life.
3. I trust the Bible because Jesus and the apostles believed the Bible. When challenged by the religious teachers of his day, Jesus repeatedly appealed to the scriptures as the basis of authority. According to Jesus, the Old Testament is the word of God (Matt 4:4), historically reliable (Matt 19:1–9; 24:37; Matt 12:35–37), the revelation of God’s plan of salvation (Lk 16:31), a witness to his own person and work (Lk 24:44), eternal and abiding (Matt 5:17–18), and completely trustworthy (John 17:17). The apostles similarly affirmed the Old Testament as the word of God and recognized their own writings as on par with Scripture. Paul wrote that all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). That is, all Scripture is a work of divine inspiration. As noted above, Peter recognizes Paul’s writings as having equal authority to the Old Testament canon (2 Pet 3:16). In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul appeals to Deuteronomy and the Gospel of Luke, identifying both of them as “Scripture” (Deut 25:4; Lk 10:7). Paul preached the gospel of God, which “God promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom 1:2). This gospel message is the content of Paul’s writings in the New Testament. So convinced was Paul of the authority of his gospel, he announced that anyone who preaches a different gospel will be anathema (Gal 1:6–9).
For all these reasons (and more to come), I trust the Bible.