What is the Bible?

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12-13

I have owned a bible since before I could read it. The first one I owned had pictures in it and was a King James Version. I remember getting in trouble because I was in our church gym in Red Deer Alliance, and I was using my Bible as a basketball and wrecked its cover. In those days, even though my behavior did not necessarily reflect my opinions, I did value my Bible because it was God’s word. I knew it was God’s word because my parents, my Sunday school teacher, and my pastor told me it was.
I have now studied the bible myself and written about it for many years. It is our job as Christians who love people who may be far from God to study God’s word for ourselves so that we might be able to help them understand it. Before we study the scriptures it is important for us to know where the scriptures come from.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16

God-Breathed?
The Bible is a collection of writings compiled together into one volume. The writings were composed by over 40 different authors and were written over an almost 1500 year period. It was not until many years after Jesus’ death that all of these writings were brought together and the decision was made to bind them as one large compilation that we now call “The Holy Bible”. What made all of these books unique is the belief that the books of the Bible are believed by Christians to be divinely inspired.
Simply put, this means that God wrote these books of the Bible. Yet it is much more difficult than that. Nowhere in the Bible do we have a picture or story of God writing the Bible in a great big scroll up in heaven and then bringing it down here to earth. What we do get, is some interesting stories of men and women who were spoken to by God and used that revelation to compose the scrolls, which later became the different books of the Bible.
Divine Dictation?
I used to wonder about this idea. How does Divine Inspiration truly work? Is it simply a matter of God giving words, ideas and/or concepts to his writers, or is there something far more sinister at work here? In my college years, I had a kind of mystical or magical view of Inspiration. In my mind’s eye, I could see a wise old man sitting at his desk with a pen and ink and his scroll before him simply waiting in meditation for God to arrive. In the stillness of the room, the Holy Spirit enters and the man is aware of a warm breath before he is consumed by a presence that is both terrifying and peaceful.  In his mind, there is a flood of images he has never seen, words he has never heard or spoken, and memories of days long gone, mixed with the foreknowledge of what can only be the days to come. Then as if in a dream, he feels his hand lift from the desk, he dips his pen and begins to write!
Although, this seems rather mystical and possibly even somewhat romantic, I do not believe that God chose to work that way. Although God did not use possession or bodily manipulation, there is some biblical evidence that can be found for God asking for His words to be written down exactly as he spoke them.
Exodus 34:27-28 | The Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Jeremiah 30:1-2 | This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord; “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says; ‘Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.‘”
Habakkuk 2:2 | Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make in plain on tablets so that a Herald may run with it.”
This seems to be a different process completely than what was previously discussed. This is simply God giving a message, through a prophet, to His people. This process was known as forth-telling, whereas God speaks to His people through a prophet and shows the prophet exactly what he needs to say. Yet, clearly we see that God still chose his writers carefully because they were to be writers for Him and not a body that the Spirit uses to pen his own divine thoughts.
Divine dictation was not the way God chose to work with his people because it would be against his very nature and design. If he should abandon us to our own futility and free will and yet still pursue a personal relationship with us, why would he force such control over us to achieve His written word?
God inspired His chosen writers. He chose men and women whose hearts and minds were dedicated to His. He chose those whose words would flow from a heart that is bent towards His will because there is freedom in that kind of control. 
If God wished to give His people a series of letters like Paul’s, He prepared a Paul to write them, and the Paul he brought to the task was a Paul who spontaneously would write just such letters. (The Inspiration and authority of the Bible, 1951, p. 155)
About the Translations
It should also be noted, that although the many different translations of the Bible are valuable for reading, studying, council, evangelism, and worship, these texts and translations are not considered to be the inspired words of God, but simply inspiring. It is only the original text, in the original languages, that is considered to be inspired by God. Translations are simply well-intended representations of the timeless word of God copied into contemporary language so they may edify and build up the believer and give conviction to the lost. That being said we do not have access to the original text so we work with what we have.
Now what?
With this rather preliminary understanding of where the bible comes from we can now wade into the fray of studying it. In my next post (Thursday, May 14), I will wander through a few methods that I have to study the bible.

// View part 2 of ‘Studying the Scriptures’ //

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About the Author: chet kennedy

Chet Kennedy is the Executive Director of Chamisall, a Christian summer camp and retreat centre located outside of Calgary, Alberta. He has over 20 years of youth ministry experience. His ministry experience includes both the small-town context and he spent 15 years on staff here at Beulah. Chet is a gifted communicator who uses storytelling to help audiences understand the truths of scripture as he reads from his analog bible. He loves to talk about God, his family, and apple products. Chet’s first book, Broken Mortals: A Journey of Hope, is available on Amazon.