Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of the Bible

Doctrine The Bible 

What does the Bible teach about the Bible?

Question How did the Bible come to be?

Answer God directed holy men to write the Bible by His Spirit. It is fully authored by Him and says what He wants it to say. It is complete, preserved for every generation.

Scripture 2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Explanation| If the Bible is God’s written word—and, it is—then how did it get written down? That is what we are trying to understand with this question. Did God physically write it, Himself? How did the Bible come to be, and how did it get to you and me?

God directed men to write the Bible. God speaks, but He doesn’t have a physical mouth like we do because He is spirit. God has also written some of His words down, Himself, but He doesn’t necessarily have physical fingers, nor has He chosen to use this same method with the rest of the Bible.1 How did God ‘write’ the Bible, then? Our verse above is very helpful in understanding the process of how the Bible came to be. First, God used real, human men to write the Bible. The sixty-six books of the Bible were written by over 40 men, over a period of 1,500 years. Actual, historical men, like Moses, David, and Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and John. These men, among others, physically wrote down at certain times and in certain places what you and I read today in the Bible. Some of them wrote by dictating to a secretary, others wrote by their own hand with various writing tools.2 These men were, in many ways, ordinary men. But they were also ‘holy’ men—men whom God chose, and who were faithful to follow Him. Second, God directed these men to write the Bible. None of them set out to write portions of the Bible on their own, by their own will. And, none of them wrote simply out of their own ideas or imagination. How did God direct them? By His Spirit. Herein is another way the Holy Spirit relates to the Bible—He ‘carried along’ these men to write what they wrote. In short, God, through His Spirit, ensured that what these men wrote was exactly what He wanted them to write. While we might not know exactly how this worked, I think it’s well-illustrated by the same idea (‘carried along’) used elsewhere. In Acts 27, the apostle Paul, while sailing to Rome, encounters strong winds which, we are told, carried the ship along (Acts 27:17).

The Bible is fully authored by God. God used human men to physically write down His word, the Bible. And, He was very much an active part of the entire process. He planned to have His word written. He selected certain men to write various portions of it. He directed each of them in writing their specific portions. And He made sure that what they wrote was what He wanted them to write. So, the Bible was written by men, but is ultimately authored by God. I’ve said this already, but it bears repeating—the Bible as God’s written word says exactly what He wants it to say. Now, here’s the fascinating thing. Because God used many different men (at different times, and in different places), the way in which He has spoken through them is unique to the men who wrote His word. What do I mean? First, the Spirit’s work in these men (carrying them along) didn’t override who they were as persons. Meaning, they didn’t become robots when they wrote their portions of the Bible. They wrote what they wrote while in control mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And, while some of them also wrote other things as well, they were aware that when they were writing the Bible it was different than any of their other writings.3 Second—and very much related to what we just said—the Spirit’s work in these men didn’t override their individual personalities. Meaning, they don’t sound the same when we read their portions of the Bible. Each of them retained, for example, their own writing styles, including the words they used, their mannerisms, and even how they made their points. In short, Paul wrote what God wanted him to write, and He had him write as Paul. That is, Paul writes as Paul, not like Peter. And Peter writes as Peter, not like Paul.4 And God, in His wisdom, intentionally chose not only to say what He said in the Bible, but also to say what He said in the way that He said it in each of the 66 books of the Bible.

The Bible is complete. It is. It hasn’t always been complete, but it is now. Let me explain what I mean. First, the Bible had a beginning. While God has always been, and, as God, has always been a talking God, yet His word hasn’t always been written down. Second, God is the one who determined to have His word written down, not man. And, He planned for it to be accomplished. So, He knew what He was doing, and He kept His plan moving along. Third, as I already mentioned, the Bible—it’s 66 books—was written over a span of 1,500 years. So, for a time, it was continually being added to as each book was written. And, during that time, God’s people didn’t have all of His written word. Fourth, the Bible has been completed. And as such, its completion has been preserved for you and me. Now, I realize I just covered a lot of ground in those few sentences. Let me work backwards and explain a bit more. That we have the Bible is ultimately a demonstration of the providential work of God. He has made sure that you and I have His written word, and He has done so using many normal means, like the capabilities and diligence of people, copying and translating His written word from generation to generation. But how do we know that these 66 books are the Bible, no more, no less? Well, we’ve already seen (in our previous question) that these 66 books bear the characteristics of God Himself. Additionally, though, from the Bible we can reasonably conclude that Revelation was the last book.5 For example, the overall purpose of the Bible is to make known God’s plan of full salvation through Jesus Christ, which it has faithfully done.6 Also, God makes Himself known most fully in and through Jesus Christ, which has taken place through His first coming and its witness in the New Testament.7 Further, He has already made full use of the apostles to establish the church, which has been established and continues to grow now apart from the apostles.8 And, He has clearly made known to us what we ought to do while we wait for Him to bring everything to an end when Jesus Christ returns one day, which is the next major event in God’s plan.9 So, put another way, we don’t need any more books. What we have with the 66 books of the Bible is sufficient.

This is what the Bible teaches about…the Bible!

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1 Deuteronomy 910 And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. (See also, Exodus 31:18)

2 Jeremiah 3618 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.”  
2 John 112 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 1 Corinthians 5I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. (See also, 1 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Peter 3:1)

4 2 Peter 315  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

5 Revelation 2218 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

6 Hebrews 2Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

7 Acts 232 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (See also, Acts 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 5:9-11)

8 Ephesians 219 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (See also, Ephesians 4:11-16)

9 1 Thessalonians 1For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (See also, Acts 1:9-11; Hebrews 9:25-28)