|The Doctrine of the Bible
© 2008 Multimedia Apologetics
This document is intended to provide an overview of the doctrine of
the Bible. For more detailed defense of the inspiration of Scripture, please
see the other resources on this site and reference works cited.
Christians believe that everything that the Bible teaches is true and that it is the inspired, infallible Word of God, inerrant in the original autographs. While we do not have the original manuscripts, we have numerous excellent copies dating back to within a century or so of the life of Christ. Moreover, the Bible is the ultimate rule of faith and practice; orthodox Christianity flows from acceptance of the Bible as the inspired word of God since all doctrine rests upon the clear teaching of Scripture. Protestants believe that only the 66 books included in the Protestant Bible are canonical. The Old Testament Canon was closed by about 200 B.C.; minor disputes continued until the Jewish Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90 which rejected the Apocrypha and many other spurious books and books containing the religious lore of the Hebrews. The books contained in the Protestant Old Testament are the same as those accepted by the Council of Jamnia. It was not until the Council of Trent (1545-63) that the Catholic Church added the Apochrya to their Old Testament canon in an attempt to refute Martin Luther. The majority of New Testament books were accepted into use as they became available because they were written by eyewitnesses or their close associates. Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation were cited as authoritative by the some early church fathers. Their acceptance into the Canon was delayed due to questions of interpretation and authorship; once these were resolved they were accepted into the twenty-seven book New Testament Canon. The New Testament Canon was ratified by the synods at Hippo (A.D. 393) and Carthage (A.D. 397). Other books (the apocrypha) were rejected because they were not universally accepted. Books containing Gnostic and pagan teachings (the pseudepigrapha) were rejected by the early church fathers universally because they lacked apostolic authority and were mostly written at late dates.
Evangelicalism holds to the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible meaning that the writings themselves were inspired. Working through the Holy Spirit, God used ordinary people and their personalities to convey His message to humanity through the ages.
While the Bible uses figures of speech and other literary techniques to convey its message, it is meant to be interpreted in a literal historical-grammatical way according to the plain meaning of the text.
A defense of the divine origin of the Bible can be made using several lines of reasoning. First, the Bible contains many detailed prophecies concerning Israel, people, and nations, which have been fulfilled literally in the history of the world (J. Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible). Second, archaeology has provided resounding support for the history and peoples presented in the Bible. According to Nelson Glueck, an archaeologist who excavated over a thousand sites in the Middle East, “it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” (Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev, 31). Third, the Bible is supported by early and plentiful copies of manuscripts. Unlike other ancient books, thousands of copies and fragments of Bible books exist dating to within fifty to one-hundred years of the events described. Bible books claim to be eyewitness testimonies and demonstrate that they are eyewitness accounts by the details that they incorporate. Fourth, the Bible, though it was written by nearly forty authors in diverse locations over a period of fifteen hundred years, presents a unified picture of the Glory of God and His plan to rescue fallen humanity.
The Bible claims that it is the inspired Word of God and also demonstrates that it is the Word of God. Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mt. 5:17-18). This passage indicates that the entire Old Testament is infallible. Jesus also told the apostles, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth . . .” (John 16:13), which indicates that the New Testament is the inspired Word of God. Similarly, Paul says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2Tim 3:16). Moreover, Peter says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Later in this letter, Peter refers to Paul’s letters as “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Beyond this, it is the uniform witness of the Apostolic Fathers that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God.
The anti-supernaturalism and higher criticism that infected the church and seminaries after the enlightenment are without basis and must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ. The defense of the inerrancy of scripture is critical given the rising tide of moral relativism in our culture. The Bible as we have it today is a reliable reproduction of the original books. Minor variations among the many manuscript copies of the Bible books can be found, but these variations are limited in nature and have no impact the doctrines of Christianity. Excellent books have been written challenging alleged contradictions in the Bible and reasonable explanations have been found to the concerns raised by skeptics.
Norman Geisler and William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible
Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask
Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
© 2008 Multimedia Apologetics