By John R. Ecob D.D.
The Bible is a unique book by any standard. It is the oldest book in the world and outdates every other written record. No other written record compares with it. Whether we turn to Assyrian stone stele, Egyptian clay tablets, papyrus or vellum nothing predates the Holy Scriptures commonly called, the Bible. The earliest chapters of the Bible were written about 6,000 years ago.
Many ancient writings such as the Epic of Gilgamish dated about 1700 BC actually give a garbled version of the Biblical Flood and Assyrian tablets from the ancient 7th century BC library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh concur with the fact that there were ten generations before a global Flood in Noah’s day as recorded in the Bible!
Moses was the penman who wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, about 1500 BC, but the Book of Genesis which he edited incorporated the genealogies of the entire human race back to 4000BC. It provides a continuous history of the human race from the day that Adam was created to about 1500BC when the Israelites left the land of Egypt. After Moses, other writers provided a continuous history of Israel and the nations as they influenced Israel, down to the time of Christ. The last Book in the Bible, Revelation, was written in AD96 in the Roman era and thereafter we have secular and Church history for the past 2,000 years which although not Divinely inspired, fills the gap to our present day.
Other Religious Books
It is a fact that without the Bible we would have no idea of the origins of the human race. Other ancient religions have left their “holy” books but these are nowhere near as old as the Bible and provide little help in tracing the origins of the human race. Other religious books are:
- Koran or al- Qur’an (holy book of Islam) was written in 650 AD and borrows from the Bible.
- Veda (sacred scriptures of Hinduism) written 500 – 1000 BC. This is not a history but a compilation of songs
- Tao-te-ching (Taoism book of philosophy) was mainly written by Lao- Tse, who is believed by many to be the founder of Taoism (142AD – some say 500BC).
- Bahagavad Gita (Indian Hindu epic poem) between 200 BC – 200 AD.
The substance of all religious books of the religions of the world is so inferior to the Bible that they are totally incapable of challenging the Holy Scriptures.
Secular History or Biblical History
Other claims of greater antiquity depend entirely on what is known as the prehistoric era which is a figment of men’s imaginations based on the presumption that the human race evolved over millions of years.
The prehistoric era is defined by Professor Breasted in his book, Ancient Times, A History of the Early World. In a footnote on page 47 he states:
We may best describe the Historic Age by saying that it is the Age beginning when written documents were first produced by man… all that we know of man in the Age previous to the appearance of writing has to be learned from weapons, tools, implements, buildings, and other things (bearing no writing) which he has left behind… The transition from the Prehistoric to the Historic Age … took place in the thousand years between 4000 and 3000BC.
So the Professor admits that history only goes back to 4,000 BC exactly as the Bible declares. The difference is that the Bible tells us how God created the world about 4000BC but the Professor wants to believe men came from monkeys and accidentally evolved up to humans. His assumptions are based on the wildest guess about “weapons, tools, implements, buildings, and other things (bearing no writing) which man has left behind…”.
The question is, Who do we believe; the Professor or the Bible? If the Bible is just a collection of writings by men then we can assume it would be impossible for it to be written without contradictions or error. No series of 66 books written by men over a period of 1,600 years could possibly be written without historic errors, conflicting facts and diverse views.
But the Bible, since its completion in AD96, has been studied in minute detail for 2,000 years by thousands of scholars. Many commentaries have been written on every word. The Bible has been translated into almost every language on earth. Bible Dictionaries have been produced in the original languages; concordances have been produced to assist in identifying a particular word or phrase and there have been far more copies of the Bible printed than any other book. And all this in spite of attempts at various times to totally eradicate the Bible. Men have died; been burned alive or were thrown to lions, because they dared to translate, copy or print the scriptures.
The Bible of course has had its detractors and many of these have been from within the ranks of Christendom. These Critics have tried to destroy the history of the Bible; to consign it to ancient mythology and to deny its fundamental doctrines but again and again evidence has emerged to vindicate the Bible as an inerrant and completely reliable historical and literal record without contradiction.
Prophecies Prove Divine Inspiration
The archeologists’ spade has again and again verified the historical facts of the Bible and silenced the unbelief of the skeptics and critics. But the greatest proof of the Divine character of the Bible is its prophecies. The Bible is essentially a book of prophecies and its histories show the fulfilments of those prophecies. When Isaiah the prophet was faced with a nation turning to the worship of idols he challenged the people to produce the fulfilled prophecies of their heathen gods. He wrote:
Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, THAT WE MAY KNOW THAT YE ARE GODS: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together (Isaiah 41:21-23).
Only God knows the future and when the idols could not tell “the things for to come” they were shown to be phoney! Today as never before we are seeing the nations aligning to fulfil the prophecies of the last days. The whole world is preparing for the day of judgment. Israel is back in the land; Russia is in Syria with Turkey and Iran; the Kings of the East are preparing for a massive Asian war; Europe is coming together as a European Union to form a Revived Roman Empire and provide a throne for the Antichrist, apostasy is in the Churches, violence and wickedness is abounding globally. These, and many more prophecies, have put their stamp on the Bible as the infallible, inspired Word of God.
Satan’s Subtle Attacks – Interpreting Spiritually
Satan has many ways by which he attempts to undermine the authority and veracity of the Bible but one of these is to deny that the Bible is a literal record of facts and therefore it must be interpreted symbolically or “spiritually”.
From as early as the second century there were men in the Church such as Origen, who taught that there were secondary meanings to what was recorded as historical facts. He taught that simple believers might read the Bible and understand it as a literal record of events and people but the “spiritually minded” would see deep hidden meanings in the words of Scripture. This method results in conclusions that reflect the philosophy embraced by the one who interprets the text of scripture and leads to all kinds of error and diverse opinion. Nowhere in the Bible has this “symbolic” method of interpretation been used more than the Book of the Revelation. There are symbols in Scripture but the Bible tells us what those symbols mean. We are not left to our own devises to determine what a symbol represents: the seven stars are seven angels (Revelation 1:20); the seven candlesticks are the seven churches (Rev.1:20); the dragon is the Devil and Satan (Revelation 12:9); the two olive trees are two Jewish prophets (Revelation 11:4); “Jerusalem “spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8) etc. In fact the key to understanding the Book of the Revelation is to take it literally!
In recent times some Jewish people have used the computer to identify words in the Hebrew text and by randomly skipping any number of words they claim to identify hidden secret messages in the Hebrew text of the Torah (Moses’ Law). In July 2016 Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson released a new Bible Code video he called,
Temple will come down to Jerusalem 5776 in bible code.
These predictions fail of fulfilment and therefore are not to be used. There is no secret coded message in God’s Word and claims amount to no more than wishful thinking on the part of Jews.
I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing (John 18:20).
The old rule still applies when reading the Scripture: When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense!
What is Inspiration?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God (qeopneustos), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
All and every word of scripture is “God-breathed” for that is what the word “inspiration” means. When we speak we breathe and pass air over our vocal chords to articulate words. Inspiration is God speaking the words of the Bible and this makes the Bible an amazing book. If every word was inspired and spoken by God the Holy Spirit, then there can be no literary, historical, prophetic or ethical mistakes. The Bible writers were so controlled by God as to give us a perfect record.
When we find difficult passages of Scripture that may seem to contradict we must assume we have not discovered the correct interpretation. After 73 years of reading the Scriptures on almost a daily basis I can testify that I have yet to find one contradiction in the entire 66 books of the Bible.
My father was delivering a lecture on the inspiration of the Scriptures to students at a theological college in Sydney. One student rose and stated:
We know that the Living Word (Christ) was perfect but the Bible was written by fallible men and therefore it cannot be infallible.
My father replied,
Christ was the Living Word of God and He was born of a fallible woman. God brought His perfect Son into the world through an imperfect woman and He has given a perfect written Word of God through imperfect men.
Peter tells us that
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved (feromenoi) by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:19-21).
The men who God used to write the scripture were so controlled by the Holy Spirit that they became the penman of God. What came from their pen was “not by the will of man”. They were Godly men but they were not perfect, yet, when given the Word of God, what they wrote was without error.
They were “moved” by the Holy Ghost. The word “moved” is the Greek word φερω meaning “to bear, to bring”. In Acts 2:2 it is translated “rushing” (φερόμενης) when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles as a “rushing mighty wind”.
Words obtain their meaning from the context in which they are used and the same word translated “moved” in 1 Peter 1:21 is translated “driven” in Acts 27:17 where we read how Paul was caught at sea in a violent storm and he says,
… they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven (ιφεροντο) (Acts 27:17).
In the storm the seamen had lost control of the vessel and lowered the sails to let the ship be driven along wherever the wind might take it. That’s the same word used to describe how holy men of God were “moved” to speak the words of God.
Peter also enunciates an important principle to assist us in interpreting Bible prophecy. He states:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (1 Peter 1:20).
Many people, especially the cults, have erred by picking an isolated verse out of its context and have built a theory about some prophecy. Peter tells us that all the prophecies of the Bible whether in the Old Testament or New Testament agree and must be compared if we are to rightly interpret prophecy. He states that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation”. This principle is absolutely vital if we are to
rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
It is a strange thing that some will build a whole doctrine around an isolated verse of Scripture and then spiritualize its meaning but they would never interpret a medical book or an engineering book in the same manner. We must remember when we read the Word of God that God said what He meant, and meant what He said. We have no alternative but to read it and become familiar with the text so that we can interpret the text literally in its primary sense.
1) Revelation – Paul’s Doctrine of Inspiration –
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
Truth comes from God. When men preach the Truth they are expressing what God says. Throughout the ages, before the scriptures were complete, God communicated with men by speaking to prophets. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and many more prophets were men through whom God spoke.
Sometimes God spoke to His prophets in visions of the night; sometimes in an audible voice, and the messages these prophets received were written down on vellum (calf skin) or papyri (paper). What they wrote was copied with meticulous care by scribes and these records have been kept as books in the Bible. The Apostle John was the last of the prophets and he wrote the last book of the Bible; the Book of the Revelation.
The Truth about God and His ways cannot be concocted by men; it cannot be the product of education. No amount of study can be the source of truth. Since Jesus said, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH and the Life”, all Truth must flow from God therefore truth must be revealed by God, hence the need for prophets to whom God communicated His Truth.
Paul recognizes this fact when he wrote,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:10).
Men may study philosophy, theology or ethics and morality but the absolute standard for all of these is the revealed truth recorded and preserved in the Bible as the Word of God.
Paul indicates that God has revealed the truth to ”US” (Apostles) by His Spirit. These were Godly, chosen men who were specially prepared and equipped to record Divine Truth. When John finished the last book of the Bible he 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 (Revelation 22:18).
Paul warned us that there would come a time when there would be no need for any new direct revelation from God:
Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he realized that he only had “part” of God’s truth but that the time would come when Divine revelation would be complete and then there would be no need for prophets to prophesy any longer – “that which is part shall be done away”.
The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit that were promised to the early Church all ceased once a “perfect” (complete) revelation was given in the Bible. There was no further need for the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge once the complete Scripture was given. “When that which is perfect (complete) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”!
This explains why there are no prophets today. They are not needed. Today we have “pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11) to expound the truth that has been fully revealed in the perfect completed Word of God. Those who claim to be prophets today are “false prophets” and Jesus warned us that there would be “false prophets” in the last days. Jesus said:
Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many (Matthew 24:11).
Throughout Christendom there are a multitude of false prophets. These claim to have visions, and out-of-body experiences. They constantly say that “God told them”, and make predictions of coming events. We even had a couple of Charismatic Pastors who, in 2019, prophesied that Donald Trump would be President in America after the 2019 election but they were wrong which shows they are false prophets. The true prophets of God were never wrong and their prophecies were fulfilled in minute detail.
2) Inspiration – Paul’s Doctrine of Inspiration
It was the task of those Apostles and Prophets to whom God revealed His Truth to record that Truth accurately for the benefit of succeeding generations. And in this regard they were not left to their own devices. These prophets and Apostles were fallible men. Some were shepherds, herdsmen or fishermen. Few were scholars with great literary skills yet they wrote down the truth revealed to them by the Holy Spirit in words that accurately conveyed the message revealed.
Had these Bible writers been left to their own limited ability when recording the truth revealed we would have had a Bible that was quite different to that which we have today. Paul makes it abundantly clear that what was written down was not the expression of any human spirit of man but the Spirit of God who indwelt them.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man , but the Spirit of God. Now we (apostles) have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we (apostles) might know the things that are freely given to us (apostles) of God.
God wanted all men to know “the things that are freely given of God” and for that reason there could be no ambiguity or shoddiness in recording the Truth. There was no latitude for the human instrument to influence the words of Scripture. The Holy Spirit had revealed the truth to Bible writers and He would choose the very words that would express that truth.
Some scholars have gone to great lengths to speak of different styles of writing by different authors and have attributed this to a human element influencing the inspired writings but this does not detract from the fact that the words chosen by each writer were chosen by the Holy Spirit. Each writer was a chosen vessel and their personality may become evident in their writings but the Holy Spirit chose the words for them to write.
We may think of the Bible writers as God’s pens or paint brushes. A painter has many paint brushes of different size and he may use all of his paint brushes in the execution of the task of producing a perfect landscape. It may be possible to tell which brush was used on various parts of the painting but the brush does not determine the colour or the size of the stroke; it is the hand of the painter that moves the brush. He chooses which brush to use and how to use it and so it is with the Holy Spirit. When He had a message to record He chose appropriate men fitted by God to portray the message accurately on the canvas of Holy Scripture and the words were the words of God! We call this verbal (word) inspiration or plenary (complete) inspiration.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things (truths) with spiritual (words) (1 Corinthians 2:11-13).
3) Illumination – Paul’s Doctrine of Inspiration
The Truth about God is not only Revealed and Recorded by the Holy Spirit but it can only be Received by illumination of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you (Matthew 7:6).
When the Jews rejected Jesus’ ministry He began to teach in parables and they asked Him why He had done so. Jesus replied,
Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them (those who reject Christ) it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath (Matthew 13:11-12).
The good news of the Gospel of Christ is clear to all and all may find the way to God but when men harden their hearts and refuse to repent and believe in Christ, God sends a blindness upon them. He did it to Israel when they rejected their Messiah (Isaiah 6:9-13; Matthew 13:14). It is only when we are born again by the Spirit of God that we get spiritual light. Only then can we understand the Word of God because
the natural man (unsaved man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
There is a vast store of Truth in the Bible and no Christian can know it all. We can only understand God’s Truth as the Holy Spirit illuminates His Word. As we apply ourselves to reading and meditating in God’s Word we discover great truths to live by and our understanding of God’s ways increases. We
grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Of course it takes effort, and we must
study to show ourselves approved unto God … rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
But we must remember that it is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the written Word and teaches us. We are to seek His aid as we study. Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would
guide you into all truth (John 16:13).
God Has Promised to Preserve His Word
Thus far we have seen that the Word of God came to us by Divine revelation, was recorded by Divine inspiration and is understood by Divine Illumination. But how do we know if we still have the original inspired words? God has promised to preserve His Word but how has He done it? The Psalmist wrote:
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever (Psalm 12:6-7).
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever (1 Peter 1:25).
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).
Centuries have passed during which there were no printing presses and copies were produced by scribes. Printing was not invented until 1450 and before that time the Scriptures were copied by hand on papyri and vellum. Copies on vellum (calf skin) lasted for many hundreds of years; in the case of the Dead Sea scrolls, about 2,000 years.
During times of Roman pagan persecution, up to 313AD when the Edict of Toleration was signed by Emperor Constantine, many copies of the Scripture were confiscated and burned but opposition only caused the Word of God to multiply. Today there are well over 5,000 manuscripts available as Uncials (Upper case) or Cursives (lower case). The greatest textual scholar of all time, Dean Burgon, declared that 95% of all these manuscripts agree and only 5% are in disagreement. Of the 5% in disagreement these do not speak with one voice but divide into 5 separate groups according to Kenyon of the British Museum.
After printing was invented several editions of the Greek text were printed beginning with Erasmus in 1516 and later by the Elzevier Brothers in 1633. This text became known as the Received Text or Textus Receptus. It represented the united voice of the vast majority of the manuscripts. The New Testament in the King James (KJV) Bible was translated from this text.
In 1871 the Anglican Church in England ordered a revision of the KJV and two Cambridge scholars, Westcott and Hort, were appointed to the committee. Some conservative scholars refused to sit on the same committee with these men and although the Chairman, Dr Scrivener, argued for the Received Text for ten years against a spurious text introduced by Westcott and Hort, Westcott and Hort had a majority on the committee and prevailed to produce a Revised Version of the Bible in 1881.
Most modern versions sadly have followed the Wescott and Hort edition of the Greek Text or some derivative of it. The New King James Bible was translated from the Received Text in the New Testament. The Trinitarian Bible Society recognizes only the Received Text.
The English translation of the Bible in the 1611 King James Bible is still widely used and loved. It is linked to the Strongs Hebrew and Greek Dictionary and enables lay people without knowledge of the original languages to consult the original text. This is an invaluable asset only available with the King James Version.
The Psalmist wrote:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11).
God has given us His words and we are exhorted to meditate in God’s words in the very first psalm:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
The pathway of blessing in this life is trodden by those who love God’s Word and who meditate in the Scriptures continually. These apply God’s Word to every part of their life and are thereby fashioned daily into the image of the Living Word; our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are converted by the Word.
The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul (Psalm 19:7).
We are born again by the Word,
not of corruptible seed but incorruptable, by the word of God that liveth and abideth for ever (1 Peter 1:23).
We grow spiritually when we feed on the Word.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2).
God lights up our path through the Word.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).
God’s Word will keep us from sin.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11).
And much much more! Amen.