What is the Bible/Scripture?

March 3, 2014

What is the Bible/Scripture?

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. II Tim 3:16-17   

θεόπνευστος – inspired by God, literally meaning ‘Godbreathed’

We accept the Bible, including the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, as the written Word of God. The Bible is an essential and infallible record of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all it teaches. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through it in living power. All believers are exhorted to study the Scriptures and diligently apply them to their lives. The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly wisdom. Every doctrinal formulation, whether of creed, confession or theology must be put to the test of the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture.

God has revealed Himself in many ways in different times and places. In creation, He testifies of His power and divinity.1 Through acts of nature, He evidences both severity and kindness.2 In the Old Testament, He spoke to His people through prophets. Now He has spoken finally and decisively in His Son.3 The good news of the Son and His redemptive work is contained within the Bible, or what we call Scripture. It is the written record of God’s self-revelation. All Scripture points to Christ and it is only when interpreted through such a lens that it is rightly understood.4

So, what is Scripture? What sets it apart from other works? Basically, the answer to those questions revolves around the process of inspiration. Now, we all use the word inspiration and bring to it a plethora of meanings. However, as used of Scripture, the meaning is quite precise. It is derived from the Greek for ‘God-breathed’ and technically indicates the process by which God superintended the prophets and apostles who wrote the particular books of the Bible. That does not mean that men were merely passive puppets, as though sleep-writing, but rather that God sovereignly dictated His message through the individual personalities, intellects, experiences and styles of those whom He chose to author His message. It is this understanding of inspiration which must bear upon all subsequent discussion.

2 Peter 20-21 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.

Given that Scripture is inspired by God, we can further deduce that, as originally written, it must be inerrant and authoritative for all people at all times. In addition, we will also look at the doctrine of sufficiency. Lastly, we will attempt to deal with the issues involved with interpretation, especially relevant to the subjective views of postmodern thought.


         John 17:17

         Numbers 23:19

Scripture is inerrant. By this we mean that Scripture is without error and is always true in everything of which it speaks. This does not mean that Scripture gives us exhaustive knowledge of anything in particular, but that the knowledge which it does give is objectively accurate.5

God cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Typically we do not like to speak of any limitations upon God’s character (given that He is able to accomplish His entire will), but in this case, the Bible testifies to the impossibility of God to do that which is contrary to His very nature. His words are truth. Because the Bible contains God’s word, the Bible is true. Because there is no hint of falsehood or error in God, neither does the Bible contain such errors.6


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

As God is the ultimate and supreme authority, His words are not to be taken as anything less than the authoritative standard by which life is to be lived. This statement is applicable for both the believer and unbeliever as God is the Creator of all. Scripture includes the very words of God. Consequently, to disbelieve or disobey them is to disbelieve and/or disobey God.


As was already stated, a recognition of sufficiency should not lend credence to the belief that Scripture sheds light upon every question which we might bring to it, but rather that it is enough and efficient to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15) and to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). In other words, scripture is sufficient to lead us to Christ and to show us salvation and righteousness in and through Him.



Why are there so many Bible translations, and how do we choose between them? Can the Bible be trusted as accurate? In this new blog series, Pastor Mark Driscoll offers a guided tour of how the Bible has been transmitted, translated, and trusted by Christians.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Isaiah 40:8

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12


If I had to make an educated guess, I’d have to say that most of the people reading this post aren’t fluent in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Neither am I. The problem is, those are the original languages of the Bible, which means in order to understand God’s word to us, we need a translation.

Fortunately, in just the last few decades or so we’ve seen a number of English Bible versions arrive, and they’re just a few mouse clicks away or as near as a bookstore. Every year the Christian Booksellers Association publishes a list of the top


  • New Living Translation
  • New International Version
  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • English Standard Version
  • Common English Bible
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible
  • New American Standard Bible
  • Reina Valera 1960
  • New International Readers Version


Holy Bible means the “Holy Book.” It contains sixty-six separate books (thirty-nine Old Testament and twenty-seven New Testament), written in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and a bit in Aramaic), over a period of more than a thousand years, by more than forty authors of varying ages and backgrounds who wrote on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe).

The Scriptures exist for many reasons, and chief among them is the revelation of the person and work of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Authors of the Bible include kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, and scholars. The books of the Bible cover history, sermons, letters, songs, and love letters. There are geographical surveys, architectural specifications, travel diaries, population statistics, family trees, inventories, and numerous legal documents. It covers hundreds of controversial subjects with amazing unity. It’s also the best-selling book of all time and is now available in nearly three thousand languages.

The Old Testament was written on papyrus—a form of paper made out of reeds; the New Testament was written on parchment (prepared animal skins). Because both forms of documents easily degrade under hot and dry conditions, it is providential that we have so many copies of ancient manuscripts. Incidentally, the various chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not part of the original books. A lecturer at the University of Paris created the chapter divisions in 1228. Its current chapter and verse divisions were not fully developed until 1551.


It’s no surprise that Christians and non-Christians have radically different views of Scripture. Christians claim the Bible is the word of God, while non-Christians disagree. Unless the Holy Spirit illuminates the understanding of a non-Christian, this differing view of Scripture will always be the case. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 puts it: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time and is now available in nearly three thousand languages.

At the heart of the Christian view of the Bible is the concept of verbal plenary inspiration. There’s a lot packed into those three words, so let me explain what it means and what it doesn’t mean.

Verbal plenary inspiration is a way of saying that God the Holy Spirit inspired not only the thoughts of Scripture, such as the ideas, but the very words and details of Scripture.

Jesus himself said: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). The ESV Study Bible says this about the passage: “Jesus confirms the full authority of the OT [Old Testament] as Scripture for all time … even down to the smallest components of the written text: the iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet … and the dot likely refers to a tiny stroke or a part of a letter used to differentiate between Hebrew letters.”

God authored the entire Bible, down to every word. But God didn’t figuratively sit down at a desk, take out a pen, and start writing down the Bible. Instead, he inspired writers throughout history to write down Scripture. These human authors retained their own style, voice, perspective, and cultural distinctives, yet God uniquely inspired them to write down what he wanted recorded with complete accuracy. This is different from, say, the Qur’an or Book of Mormon, which adherents of Islam and Mormonism claim was the result of someone taking dictation.


The doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration is simply our way of trying to express what the Bible says about itself. Here are a few of the deeply meaningful insights that Scripture reveals about itself:

Given by the inspiration of God — 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19–21

The very words of God — 1 Thessalonians 2:13

All we need to know God — Luke 16:29, 31

A perfect guide for life — Proverbs 6:23

Pure — Psalm 12:6; 119:140

True — Psalm 119:160; John 17:17

Trustworthy — Proverbs 30:5–6

Perfect — Psalm 19:7

Effective — Isaiah 55:11

Powerful — Hebrews 4:12

Nothing should be taken from or added to it — Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32

For everyone — Romans 16:25–27

To be obeyed — James 1:22

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