September 5, 2021
Last Sunday I shared with our youth group a handy chart titled “How Our Bible Came to Us.” I discovered it several years ago in a book by Charles Ryrie called Basic Theology. Knowing something of this process disarms many doubts, criticisms, and false ideas, so I thought it might be worthwhile to sum it up here. Ryrie identifies eight steps.
Step 1: Revelation
The fundamental assertion of the Bible is that our Almighty Creator has decided to reveal thoughts from his mind to the minds of human beings. He has spoken in a variety of ways, but particularly through his Son (Heb 1:1-2).
Step 2: Inspiration
As God’s revelation was put into writing, the Holy Spirit guided the authors so that the words were God breathed, exactly what he wanted (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
Step 3: Canonicity
As the various books of the Bible were written, it took time for them to be circulated. People were quick to recognize books that seemed to be genuinely inspired by God (2 Pe 3:15-16), but there were also writings from false teachers that they rejected.
Step 4: Textual Criticism
We do not have the original manuscripts written by the prophets and apostles, but we do have a lot of handwritten copies made by scribes over the centuries. These manuscripts have a lot of minor variations and a few significant ones, but nothing that would alter our beliefs. Scholars use their best judgment to determine what was original and what might have been a scribal mistake or addition. This is the reason for many of the differences between the King James Version and more recent versions.
Step 5: Translation
Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, someone must translate the Bible for us to read it in our own language. Most modern English translations were produced by teams of scholars drawn from various denominational backgrounds. Translation is more art than science.
Step 6: Illumination and Interpretation
Whenever we read anything, we interpret what that group of words means. With the Bible, we want to understand what God and the human authors meant. The translators have done much of the work, but it helps to do our own study. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit assists us by illumining our hearts (1 Cor 2:12-14).
Step 7: Application
God’s word must be obeyed, but it contains much more than direct commands. There are good examples to follow and bad ones to avoid. More importantly, there are truths about who God is and how he works that we must put into practical everyday use in our lives.
Step 8: Communication
Knowing God’s truth carries with it the responsibility of communicating it to others (Ezra 7:10). We should seek to build up fellow believers and evangelize the lost.
May we be people of the book!
– Bryan Craddock