To say that the Bible is a unique book would not be in any way overstating the facts. There is no other literary work, whether ancient or modern in the world that can be compared to it. The Bible itself makes specific claims concerning its character and uniqueness. There are about thirty eight hundred instances in which the Bible states, “God said,” or “Thus says the Lord” (i.e. Ex. 14:1; Lev. 4:1; Isa. 1:10, 24; Ezek. 1:3; etc.). Jeremiah 1:1 tells us, for example, that Jeremiah had received his message directly from God, in 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul states that the things which he was writing were the Lord’s commands, which is simply another way of saying “Thus says the Lord,” and that is the way it was being received by the believers (1 Thess. 2:13). Peter also believed and taught the divine origin of the Scriptures and the necessity of believers to heed to this divine Word of God (2 Pet. 1:16-21). In fact, according to John, who himself recognized the divine origin of the Bible, to reject or deny the Bible’s teachings was to reject or deny God Himself (1 John 4:6).
Consider the unusual composition of the Bible, what an incredible testimony. The Bible, under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, was written by over forty authors, their vocations were as diverse and varied as you can get, from kings to fisherman. It was written under many different circumstances and from many different locations spanning three continents, Africa, Asia, and Europe. The time span between the writing of the first book and the writing of the last book was over fifteen hundred years. Many of the writers knew nothing of the others and were unfamiliar with their writings. Yet in spite of all those unusual facts, the Bible has unparalleled continuity and is a unified whole. In spite of its unusual composition, we find within it no contradictions or inconsistencies. Its continuity, unity, and harmony are an amazing testimony to the fact that God is its author because without a doubt, no humans could have possibly orchestrated such harmony within the teachings of the Bible.
Apokalupsis, which means “unveiling” or “disclosure,” is the Greek word from which we derive the word revelation. Therefore, when we speak of divine revelation, we are talking about God unveiling or disclosing Himself to man. The epitome of His revelation is Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 16:25).
Revelation refers to the truths and realities that God has disclosed or unveiled that would otherwise be unknown to us because of our inability to discover them on our own. Cairns defines revelation as, “The knowledge God gives to His creatures, especially His self-disclosure by whatever means He chooses, but definitely in the Bible as His inspired Word.”1 Henry defines it as, “…the disclosure of what was previously unknown. In Judeo-Christian theology the term is used primarily of God’s communication to man of divine truth, that is, his manifestation of himself or of his will. The essentials of the biblical view are that the Logos is the divine agent in all revelation, this revelation being further discriminated as general or universal…and special or particular…”2
McGee provides what may be perhaps the most basic and straightforward definition of revelation when he says that revelation “means ‘God has spoken,’ and that is all it means.”3
Revelation is therefore both “general”—Him revealing Himself in nature, and “special”—Him revealing Himself in both the written and living Word. These two form the unity of God’s complete revelation.
Although man cannot procure salvation through general revelation, it is imperative to understand that general revelation is an extremely important antecedent to salvation. This form of revelation is the one that unveils or discloses the existence of God and much about His nature. It is through general revelation that God communicates to all humans the reality of His being, His power, His goodness, His sovereignty, and so on. This form of revelation is both necessary and preliminary to God’s special revelation.
The manifestation of general revelation can be found in nature (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:8-21), in providence (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:15-17; Dan. 2:21), and in conscience (Rom. 2:14-15).As stated previously, general revelation doesn’t provide enough information for a person to be saved but it does render man without excuse for rejecting God. General revelation makes many things about God, to all people everywhere, discoverable apart from the Scriptures or Jesus Christ the living Word.
Special revelation, unlike general revelation, finds its manifestation in the Bible and in the Person of Jesus Christ who is the most complete revelation of all. Enns states, “Special revelation as reflected in the Scriptures is given in propositional statements…; in other words, it comes from outside of man, not from within man.”4 This is a revelation that is given to particular people in specific places.
Because of the fall of man, special revelation was necessary to provide man with the way of salvation and reconciliation. Special revelation expands and completes general revelation. It finds as its essence the message of salvation and at the core of that message, the Person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is clear in teaching that Christ is the One who explains the Father (John 1:18) through His words (John 6:63) and His works (John 5:36).
The Word of God can be trusted precisely because it was God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and because the authors of both the Old and New Testament books were carried along by the Spirit of God (2 Pet. 1:21). The living written Word (the Bible) and the living incarnate Word (Christ) together are God’s special revelation to mankind.
Ryrie defines inspiration as “…God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.”5
Warfield wrote, “Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness.”6
McGee states, “Inspiration guarantees what God has said—that it is reliable, it is accurate, and it is without error.”7
Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) that all Scripture is breathed out by God…, meaning, the Bible is inspired. Several points should be noted here concerning inspiration:
(1) Inspiration is a supernatural superintendence of the Holy Spirit (superintendence is the Spirit’s supernatural work of inspiration).
(2) It relates to the original autographs.
(3) It is verbal and plenary. Verbal means that all the Bible, the Scriptures in their entirety are fully inspired. Plenary means that every part of the Bible is inspired. In other words, divine inspiration extends down to the very words and letters and to every part of the Scriptures. Not only did Paul affirm this but so did Peter (2 Pet. 1:21) and Christ (Matt. 5:17-18; 22:22-23; John 10:31-38).
(4) It involves divine and human (dual) authorship.
Inspiration leads us to the conclusion that the Bible is completely authoritative and trustworthy and that as far Christians are concerned, learning and living it should be our highest priority.
When we say that the Bible is inerrant, we are saying that it is without error in what it affirms, that is free from error. Feinberg states, “When all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences.”8
Lightner writes, “When applied to Scripture inerrancy means that the original documents were without error. If assertions are God-breathed, they must be without error, otherwise God would be guilty of asserting error…To believe the Bible is inerrant is to believe it does not lie in anything it affirms.”9
In essence, what inerrancy affirms is that the Bible is completely and perfectly accurate, inspiration and inerrancy go together. Inspiration has to do with the divine origin and process of writing the Bible, while inerrancy, with the result or product of that inspiration, namely, an error free Bible.
A couple of other things need to be mentioned here:
(1) If we are referring to the original autographs when we speak of inerrancy, what about modern translations? Well, based on all the manuscript evidence extant today, we can safely conclude that what we hold in our hands today, although not the originals, they as faithful to the originals as we can get. How has that been achieved? Because not only is God the One who authored Scripture, He is the One who preserves it as well.
(2) The cost of rejecting inerrancy is extremely high. Historically, those who rejected inerrancy ended up without failure rejecting many other of the fundamental doctrines of the faith. It is usually the first step in the rejection of orthodox Christianity.
Barackman writes, “Canonicity concerns the right of any literature to be accepted as the Word of God. Canon refers, one, to the standard that a literary work must meet before it is recognized by God’s people as Scripture and, two, to the collection of books that meet this standard.”10
Enns states, “The word canon is used to describe the inspired books…The terms ‘canon’ and ‘canonical’ thus came to signify standards by which books were measured to determine whether or not they were inspired. It is important to note that religious councils at no time had any power to cause books to be inspired, rather they simply recognized that which God had inspired at the exact moment the books were written.”11
When we speak of the canon of Scripture, we are speaking of the sixty-six books of the Bible, thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. The Apocryphal books had never been recognized as inspired nor accepted as canonical neither by the Jews nor by conservative Christians. None of these books are quoted in the New Testament nor were they in the canon Christ accepted. The Apocryphal books contain errors (historical, geographical, doctrinal, etc.) and in some cases they contradict canonical books. Concerning the inclusion and exclusion of books in the Bible, McGee states, “But I do insist that the inclusion of certain books in the Bible, as well as the exclusion of other books, was inspired by the Holy Spirit.” By about 360 A.D., the Church had recognized the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as inspired and canonical. It is important to note that no one individual or group of individuals decided what books would be part of the canon, the Holy Spirit had already determined that, the Church simply recognized what the Spirit had determined.
The Necessity and Sufficiency of Scripture
It is absolutely imperative that all people, but particularly Christians understand why revelation is necessary. Without revelation, we would not know what is necessary to become a Christian, we would not know how to grow or even live our lives as Christians. Without revelation we would never come to know God personally, we would never be able to know that our sins can and/or have been forgiven, we would never be able to know what God’s will is or His expectations are for our lives.
Biblical Christianity has always held that the Bible is the sole rule or authority for faith and practice in the life of the believer. Why? Because the Bible alone contains the words of God, all the words that we need for becoming, growing, and living as Christians. Scripture is the only place we need to go to, in fact, it is the only place we can go to when we are searching for God and want to know what He wants to say to us.
1 Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms, expanded third edition (Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 383.
2 C. F. H. Henry, in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 946.
3 J. Vernon McGee, Doctrine for Difficult Days (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 11.
4 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), 158.
5 Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), 38.
6 Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), 131.
7 McGee, 11.
8 Paul D. Feinberg, in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 142.
9 Robert P. Lightner, Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 12.
10 Floyd H. Barackman, Practical Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001), 32.
11 Enns, 170.
12 McGee, 10.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.