This article was originally written by my dear friend Jeremy Sarber.
Peter wrote, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Believers should always be prepared to give a verbal defense of our faith. The phrase “give an answer” implies we are clearing ourselves of charges brought against us by critics. This means we must (1) know the facts, (2) accept the facts, and (3) use the facts. Though our faith cannot be altogether explained, there should be reason and logic behind it.
Imagine someone asks you, “Where did the Bible come from?” What would you say? Chances are, you’d say something like, “God inspired it.” While that is true, can you prove it? Now imagine someone asks, “How did the Bible get to us after all these years?” You might say, “God preserved it.” But how did He accomplish that?
In most cases, we’re not ready to reasonably defend the inspiration of Scripture. We tend to be even worse at explaining the Bible’s preservation. We might assume God maintained a pure lineage of manuscripts throughout history until it was translated flawlessly into English. However, the evidence doesn’t support that claim.
Let’s begin with inspiration.
Approximately 1,500 years passed from the time the first book of the Bible was written to the last. We cannot be sure of the exact number. It is typically believed that the five books of Moses were written around 1450 BC. The last book, Revelation, was penned by John between AD 68 and AD 90.
It’s the book of Job that requires us to be flexible with our final number. We don’t know who wrote it or when. Some commentators such as Jacques Bolduc (1637) have suggested Moses wrote Job or at least translated it from Aramaic to Hebrew. Perhaps, but Job clearly has foreign qualities including Arabic words, nomadic habits, and illustrations from sandy plains. In short, it’s more likely that Job, Elihu, or one of Job’s contemporaries wrote the book.
If so, we’re left with the question, when did Job live? Personally, I think he lived before Exodus in the days of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. His family was organized in a patriarchal clan structure reflecting the time period. Also, the head of the family offered sacrifices rather than a priest. If nothing else, it’s at least possible that Job lived several hundred years before Moses. In short, we cannot definitively date the book of Job.
Approximately 40 authors are responsible for writing the Bible. Again, we don’t know the exact number. We can’t be sure who wrote Job. We can’t be certain who wrote Hebrews either. Many claim it was Paul. I wouldn’t argue with them, but it’s possible that Apollos or Barnabas wrote it. Perhaps Paul wrote it in Hebrew, as some suggest, but Luke later translated it into Greek.
The book of Psalms is also difficult. At least 48 of the psalms were written by unidentified authors. We face a similar dilemma with Proverbs. Though the book is called “the proverbs of Solomon,” Solomon may have borrowed many of its sayings from others (see Ecclesiastes 12:9).
Here’s a list of known Bible authors:
- The sons of Korah
- John Mark
Again, we’re left with a few questions concerning Psalms, Proverbs, and Hebrews.
Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The words of the Bible were breathed into the authors by God. That’s our claim anyway. But can we verify it?
(1) Many books claim themselves to be inspired by God.
Scripture all began with God writing the first words with His own finger (see Exodus 31:18). He then warned Moses to never add or take away from His words (see Deuteronomy 4:2). However, Moses did add to His words and placed them in the ark along with God’s original writing (see Deuteronomy 31:24-26). Apparently, Moses believed what He wrote was also God’s Word.
Joshua did the same (see Joshua 24:26). So did the prophets who often claimed to be speaking or writing the words of God (see Jeremiah 30:2).
The clearest claim to divine inspiration in the New Testament is found in the book of Revelation. John wrote:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev. 22:18-19)
(2) Books of the Bible claim other books of the Bible were inspired by God.
The prophets affirmed the law. The law and prophets pointed to Christ. Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets. Christ pointed to the events of Acts. Acts fulfilled the promises of Christ and the prophets. The remaining books of the New Testament affirmed the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Acts while also verifying one another.
The Old Testament ended with the promises of the Messiah’s arrival (see Malachi 3:1-4). The New Testament began with Christ coming on the scene. Some have calculated that Jesus alone fulfilled more than 350 Old Testament prophecies. New Testament figures and authors directly quoted the Old Testament more than 300 times as if it were divinely inspired though the same cannot be said about other books such as those in the Apocrypha. Paul claimed he was writing the words of God (see 1 Corinthians 14:37). Peter then equated Paul’s letters with Old Testament Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:16).
(3) There are no contradictions between the books of the Bible.
The same is not true of other so-called Bible books such as Esdras, Tobit, Maccabees, or Thomas, to name a few. The harmony of the 66 books of the Bible may not be all that persuasive until we remember that they were written by ~40 people over the span of ~1,500 years. They lived in various parts of the world at different times. To think they could have conspired to write a seamless work of fiction with so many historical facts included is ridiculous. For instance, how could the prophets have predicted so many intricate details about Jesus’ life and death?
(4) The early church recognized the 66 books of the Bible.
By the time of Christ, the Jews believed the 39 book of the Old Testament were inspired by God. The early church primarily agreed on the 27 books of the New Testament. In AD 367, Athanasius wrote:
Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.
It would be convenient if God gave us a divine index listing every book of the Bible. Instead, He has providentially led the church to discover and affirm time and time again those books He inspired in the beginning. Perhaps the Spirit is the most vital evidence He has given us. It is the Spirit that convicts us of the truth written in the pages of Scripture.