ARE THE BIBLICAL SCRIPTURES THE WORD OF GOD?  

        Most Christians look upon the Bible as the Word of God.  It is believed God imparted to human writers His thoughts through the agency of the Holy Spirit. These human writers are seen as taking these thoughts and converting them to the written word. Therefore, it is believed the Bible is simply a reflection of the mind of God in print. 

The role of the Spirit of God:

       Is Biblical Scripture the mind of God in print?  Jesus is quoted as saying the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance those things He taught his disciples. The Holy Spirit is identified as “the Spirit of truth” which would guide recipients of the Holy Spirit into all truth and also tell what is yet to come.  We know from the recorded events on the Feast of Pentecost that followed the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was given as promised in a rather dramatic fashion.  We see the Holy Spirit being promised by Jesus in the following Scriptures.  

       John 14:26: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach (Greek διδάξει (didaxei) you all things and will remind (Greek ὑπομιμνήσκω (hupomimnéskó) you of everything I have said to you. 

       John 15:26:  When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify (Greek μαρτυρήσει (martyrēsei) about me.

       John 16:13:  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide (Greek ὁδηγήσει (hodēgēsei) you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

       Some read these passages and conclude that God, through His Spirit, simply poured into the heads of Scriptural writers what He wanted them to write and they were simply acting as scribes in writing down what was being dictated to them.

       The Greek διδάξει (didaxei) is defined in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon as “to teach, to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses. This word, in its various tenses, appears 97 times in the NT and by context can generally be seen to mean instruct. In John 14:26 it is followed by the Greek πομιμνήσκω (hupomimnéskó) which is rendered “remind” in the NIV and “remembrance” in most other English translations. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines πομιμνήσκω (hupomimnéskó) as to “cause one to remember, bring to remembrance, recall to mind, to put one in remembrance, admonish, of something and to be reminded, to remember”

       The Greek μαρτυρήσει (martyrēsei) rendered “testify” in the NIV of John 16:26 is defined in Thayer’s as “to be a witness, to bear witness, testify, to give (not to keep back) testimony, to prove or confirm by testimony.”  The Greek ὁδηγήσει (hodēgēsei) rendered “guide” in the NIV of John 16:26 is defined in Thayer’s as “to be a guide, lead on one's way, to guide.”

       In view of the above definitions of the words used in describing how the Spirit would work in the lives of the disciples, it is evident the Spirit would teach them new things including things pertaining to their future.  It is also evident that the Spirit would guide them in bringing to their remembrance what Jesus had taught them and what they experienced during their time with Him.  This tells us that the disciples who were involved in writing the Gospels were not just scribes taking dictation from the Spirit and robotically writing down what was dictated to them. It should be apparent that they were writing about those things that the Spirit brought to their remembrance, things that they would then put into their own words.  More on this later. 

        The Holy Spirit is identified as a Counselor which would testify of Christ.  The Greek word translated Counselor is paraklētos. This word is variously translated as counselor, comforter, advocate and helper.  The Holy Spirit is also identified in Scripture as the power by which we are ushered into the Kingdom of God and eternal life.  Apostle John shows that having the Spirit is what identifies us as having God in us. Paul says the Spirit identifies our being in Christ.  Paul says we should allow the Spirit to control us and not allow our sinful nature to control us (Romans 8:5-9).  Paul shows God’s Spirit is a Spirit of power, love and sound mindedness (2 Timothy 1:7).  Paul also shows that the Spirit can be stirred up and it can be quenched (2 Timothy 1:6-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:19).  This indicates we can control the level of the Spirit's expression in our behavior. 

       The Spirit of God is virtually the power and mind of God in action.   In Isaiah 40:13 the prophet says, “Who hath directed the spirit (Hebrew: ruah) of the LORD (YHWH), or being his counselor hath taught him” (KJV)?  Apostle Paul quotes this passage when he says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34).  Paul identifies the Spirit of God with the mind of God. 

       In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), the Greek word nous is used to translate the Hebrew ruah.  This word in the Greek means the faculty of intellect, perceiving, understanding, feeling, judging, determining and so forth.   Paul is apparently quoting the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 40:13 where nous is used to translate the Hebrew ruahNous is appropriately translated into English as “mind.”  It is apparent the Septuagint translators understood the Spirit to be associated with the mind of God and rendered ruah as nous which is defined as dynamics of cognitive function. 

       When one looks at the hundreds of references to the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, it becomes apparent God’s Spirit is an expression and manifestation of what God is. God’s Spirit is the power by which He creates and sustains.  Scripture records that God speaks things into existence.  Therefore, God’s Spirit is his power of mind and thought. The Spirit of God is characterized by knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  When we experience God as counselor, comforter, advocate, helper and truth, we are in essence experiencing and participating in the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of God.  Scripture consistently shows the Spirit of God to be dynamics of mind and power.

       The manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in A.D. 31 was a special manifestation that empowered the disciples of Jesus to boldly preach the gospel and thus begin the development of the New Covenant Church.  It must be understood this was not the first time in Scriptural history the Holy Spirit was found to indwell man.  We see John the Baptist being filled with the Holy Spirit from birth.  In referring to John, Luke writes: “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth” (Luke 1:15).  Both Elizabeth and Zechariah, the mother and father of John the Baptist, are said to have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41, 67).  In Psalm 51:11, David asks God not to take His Holy Spirit from Him.

       Psalm 51:11: Do not cast me from your presence or take your holy Spirit from me.

       In speaking of Israel, the prophet Isaiah wrote the following:

        Isaiah 63:10-11: Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people-- where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them?

       These accounts show that the Holy Spirit was available and had indwelled some before the Pentecost event.  In most cases the Holy Spirit appears to have been available to be present among people but not indwelling them. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit for people in general did not become available until the Pentecost event in A.D. 31.

       John 7:38-39: Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

       John 14:16-17: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

       With the events of Pentecost in A.D. 31, the Holy Spirit became available as the indwelling presence of God.  As an indwelling presence, the Holy Spirit functions as counselor, comforter, advocate, helper and provider of truth. Christ told His disciples the Holy Spirit would bring things He taught them to their remembrance. Paul shows how this is accomplished.  Paul reveals that by having the Spirit of God we participate in the very thoughts of God.  Scripture shows the Spirit of God to be God’s dynamic of mind and power

       1 Corinthians 2:11: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

       Romans 8:16: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (KJV).

       The Spirit of God appears to associate with our human spirit in a way that allows for the very thoughts of God to be manifested in our human thinking so that our thinking becomes an expression of the thinking of God. When Jesus told the disciples that the Spirit as counselor would teach them all things, remind them of everything Christ had said to them and guide them into all truth, including knowledge of what is yet to come, Jesus was telling them their thoughts were going to be influenced by God. 

The Spirit and Inerrancy:

       Does the influence of the mind of God on our human mind equate with inerrant thinking leading to inerrant writing?  Does the action of God’s Spirit on the thinking of Scriptural writers equate to their writing absolutely inerrant documents.

       We have seen that Luke gathered information from a variety of sources. There is every reason to believe Luke had the Spirit of God dwelling within him. Does this mean that everything Luke wrote was absolutely accurate down to every last detail?  The testimony of Scripture, itself, speaks against such a conclusion.  In Part Four of this series, we identified a number of inconsistencies and outright contradictions when comparing the writings of different Scriptural authors reporting the same events.  We also found such inconsistencies and contradictions to be of no consequence as there is basic agreement among authors reporting the same event. 

       People sometimes use the expression, “the devil is in the detail.”  The implication is that it is in the details you discover the truth or falsehood of a matter.  While this may be true when evaluating a state budget plan or union contract, it has little bearing on reporting historical events.  Either historical events happened or they didn’t happen.  The Gospel  writers provide us with multiple attestations to the events they record as having happened. The truth of what they wrote does not demand that every detail be exactly accurate.   

       It should be apparent that God did not micromanage the thoughts of those who wrote the Scriptural documents or any other documents that were from time to time considered Scripture.  As covered earlier in these essays, Biblical Scripture is a collection of writings that became identified as worthy of reverence and instructive of the things of God. This is what “holy” means when applied to Scripture.

       However, Holy Scripture does not equal inerrant Scripture.  Scripture does not have to be inerrant to be holy.  As seen in the section on canonization, a number of documents, such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas, were at various times considered Holy Scripture because these documents were considered documents instructive of the things of God.  These documents were not inerrant.  Yet they were held in high esteem and considered “inspired” Scripture.

       As discussed in Part One of this series, the Bible is a collection of documents consisting of history's, poetry, prophetic and wisdom literature, letters, gospels and other forms of communication.  A wide variety of authors and writing styles are represented in the Bible.  Apostle Paul writes that Scripture is Theopneustos, God breathed. As discussed in Part Three of this series, Theopneustos is a compound word consisting of Theos which means God and pneuma which is the Greek word translated as spirit, breath and wind in the NT.  When Jesus speaks of the Spirit of God, he is speaking of the pneuma of God.  Scripture that reveals the pneuma of God equates with the presence of God which is seen to be everywhere.

       Psalm 139:7: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.

        Biblical Scriptures show that the Spirit of God fills the universe. It is the power whereby all things are sustained.  God’s Spirit is all around us all the time.  When Matthew, Luke, Paul or Peter sat down and wrote a Gospel or a letter, the Spirit of God as counselor was present in them.  When David wrote psalms or Solomon wrote wisdom literature, the Spirit of God was present with them.  Their thoughts became influenced by God’s thoughts.  At times God is seen as speaking directly through people as in the case of prophetic writings.  At other times writers may simply be responding to the manifestation of God’s Spirit as seen in the events being recorded.  They are inspired by what they personally experience or what they learn about what others have experienced. When the Gospel writers record the events of Christ’s birth, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension, they are recording the manifestation of God’s Spirit as seen in those events. It is evident, however, that their recording of such events also involved human perspectives and perceptions

       When a Christian minister counsels someone and asks for God’s Spirit to guide the counseling, this does not do away with the minister's presuppositions, prejudices, cultural conditioning, personal experiences and other dynamics coming into play.  Every human Being is the sum total of their life’s experiences, all of which come into play when communicating verbally or through the written word.  There is no reason to believe the authors of the documents that became canonized Scripture somehow surrendered all their personal perspectives, perceptions and presuppositions when writing these documents. 

       It may be asked why God allows presuppositions, prejudices, cultural conditioning, personal experiences and other dynamics of human thought to interface with the influence of His Spirit in reaching a conclusion on a particular issue.  As covered above, the Holy Spirit is identified as a paraclete which means counselor, comforter, advocate and helper. This being the case, the Spirit of God provides input but does not force a decision. God's Spirit contributes to the overall dialog going on in our head but doesn't determine the outcome of our thinking. We determine the outcome of our thinking and to the extent we allow God's Spirit to lead us will be the extent to which our decision will reflect God's thoughts. 

       The canonized NT documents, even though lacking total internal consistency, are felt to accurately report the Christ event and the theological perspectives that sprang from that event.  While there is basic agreement within Christianity as to what these documents reveal concerning the need for salvation through Christ, Christians have disagreed for centuries as to how best to understand the details of the salvation process and all related issues.  Such disagreement should tell us that God allows Christians great flexibility of thought in matters of theology and doctrine.  The history of Christianity reveals a rocky road of theological development over the centuries, a process that continues to this very day.

       Since the canonized Scriptures form the foundation for Christian theology, the challenge for theologians and Christians in general is to carefully and objectively evaluate extant doctrinal perspectives within Christianity to determine how well such perspectives align themselves with the canonized Scriptures. This takes us back to the church historian, Bart Ehrman, whom we discussed in Part One of this series.

       Professor Ehrman appears to believe the Biblical Scriptures are hopelessly flawed because of the thousands of scribal errors and apparent additions and subtractions of material he has identified in these Scriptures.  He has concluded that we cannot confidently view the Scriptures as God directed documents and seems to have further concluded these documents are only the product of human thought conditioned by the social, cultural, political and religious dynamics of the times in which Scriptural authors wrote what they wrote.  Mr. Ehrman writes the following on page 7 of his book, Misquoting Jesus.

       “What good is it to say that the autographs (original documents) were inspired?  We don’t have the originals!  We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.”

       Do the vast majority of copies of Scripture differ from the originals in thousands of ways?  How can we know that the copies of the original Scriptural documents differ in thousands of ways?  We don’t have any originals to compare them to.  Therefore, Ehrman’s statement is superfluous.  All we can do is compare copies with copies.  Are the copies we have of the Scriptural documents error-ridden?  There is little question thousands of errors can be identified when comparing copies of manuscripts.  However, the great majority of such errors are spelling or grammatical in nature and have no impact on theological or doctrinal matters.  Ehrman admits this on page 65 of his book.

       “In fact, most of the changes found in our early Christian manuscripts have nothing to do with theology or ideology.  Far and away the most change are the result of mistakes, pure and simple-slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another.” 

       On the one hand Ehrman indicates we can’t have confidence in the validity of the Biblical Scriptures because of thousands of scribal errors. On the other hand, he admits that most of the changes discovered are of little consequence as to theological or ideological conclusions derived from these Scriptures.  Ehrman appears to be taking the position that if the Scriptures can’t be found to be inerrant, we can’t have any confidence in their overall validity.  This is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water.

       In another section of his book, Ehrman writes that if God intended for us to have inerrant communication from Him in the form of written documents, He would have insured the inerrancy of not only the original documents but all the copies of those original documents that have come to be produced and have come down to us through the centuries.  Since comparing copies with copies shows many differences, albeit often minor ones, the fact remains that these copies are anything but error-free.  Ehrman appears to believe that since God chose not to insure inerrancy in the copies of the original documents, there is no reason to believe He facilitated the writing of inerrant original documents. This appears to be a reasonable conclusion. 

       There is no way we can know if the original documents of Scripture were inerrant since we have no original documents. All we have are copies of copies which have shown inconsistencies. Even if we did have original documents and could prove they were the original documents, how would we know they were inerrant?  The very fact there are a number of demonstrable inconsistencies in the copies of copies we have of what must have started as original documents, indicates the original documents were inconsistent as well.

        God could have insured we have error-free documents all through Biblical history. God could have insured there were no inconsistencies or contradictions in Scripture.  For that matter, God could have insured all Biblical documents were crystal clear as to theology and doctrine.  Since this is not the case, it is evident God did not intend to do it this way. 

       It is true the Scriptures are humanly produced documents.  They were written by humans. What was written, however, reflects human response to extraordinary events, events that reflect involvement of the Spirit of God.  While the recording of these events are not inerrant from the standpoint of there being absolute consistency between accounts, the very fact that there is multiple attestation to these events in the Scriptural record is evidence to these events having occurred.  You could even say there is a certain level of inerrancy in Scripture from the standpoint that many events are attested to by different authors, all of whom would have had access to facts of the events they were writing about. Since there is multiple attestation to supernatural involvement in the events recorded, it is shorted-sighted to conclude that God was not involved in the events recorded by Scriptural authors.

       God's involvement in such events equates with His Spirit being involved in the events and when writers of the Scriptures record such events, they were reacting to the Spirit of God as perceived in the events reported. They were responding to the Spirit of God bringing such events to their remembrance.

       As previously discussed, there is every reason to believe the NT documents were all written prior to the A.D. 70 destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem.  Therefore, there was little time for myth and legend to develop regarding the Christ event.  It is apparent the writers of the Gospels had access to information from Jesus, His mother, His brothers and sisters, and His disciples.  Christ promised His disciples they would be given the Holy Spirit as a counselor to bring to remembrance what they had been taught.  Therefore, there is every reason to believe that when they gathered, processed and reported the information they did, they did so within the context of God’s Spirit indwelling them and the Spirit being a dynamic in leading them to write what they wrote. 

       It must be understood, however, that the Spirit of God influences us.  It doesn’t drive our behavior.  It doesn’t make decisions for us.  Therefore, the human element was always present in the writing of what became Biblical Scripture which would account for there being inconsistencies between the writers.  Remember, no author of Scripture claims to have written inerrant material. 

       Luke reported that there were many who had set out to write about things pertaining to the Christ event. The implication is that there were many accounts written about the Christ event. Since we only have the four Gospels that give an account of the life of Christ, it would appear other such documents were not passed down to us through the centuries and were lost in antiquity.  Other documents that were passed down to us from early centuries of the Church and were included in early canons of Scripture were later excluded because of their failure to meet the three-fold criteria for continued inclusion.  The documents that did come to be included in our present canon are there because they did meet the established criteria for inclusion.  These documents were found to be the most authentic and reliable reflections of the events and the theology of the time of Christ and the early Church.  

Are the Biblical Scriptures the Word of God?

       I began Part Five of this series by asking whether the Biblical Scriptures are the word of God. To be the word of God the Scriptures have to reflect the thought of God.  Is this what we see in the Scriptures? Much of Scripture is history.  It could be argued that the writing of history doesn't require input from God as writing history simply involves having access to information about past events and writing an account of such events.  Luke's approach to writing his Gospel and the book of Acts appears to reflect this methodology.  This being the case, it may be more accurate to say much of the Biblical Scriptures are the word about God rather than the word of God.  To say Biblical Scripture is the word of God is to imply the Biblical authors were not expressing their own thoughts but simply recording thoughts placed into their heads by God. A practical look at the Biblical writings dispels this notion.

       As discussed in Part Three of this series, when we read the Psalms (songs) written by David, are we reading the thoughts of God or are we reading the thoughts of David about God?  David writes many songs extolling the glory of God. Is God extolling Himself by facilitating these songs through the pen of David or is David simply responding to what he sees as the glory of God and is moved to write songs about God's glory?  Should we not consider these songs a reflection of the thoughts of David about the glory of God as opposed to the thoughts of God about His own glory?   You would think God would want to know how David thought about Him through David's own volition.      

       When we read the wisdom literature of Solomon, what are we reading? Are we reading Solomon's thoughts and observations about human behavior or are we reading God's thoughts and observations about human behavior that are being directly funneled by God into Solomon's head?  Solomon had asked for wisdom and God gave him wisdom. He was considered the wisest man on earth at the time.  It would appear reasonable to conclude Solomon used this wisdom to draw conclusions about observations he made and not that he was just putting in print thoughts being directly funneled into his head by God. 

       Proverbs 31 records the sayings of a king named Lemuel who attributes what he shared to an oracle his mother taught him. There is no indication here that what is attributed to the mother of Lemuel was a revelation from God.

       In 1st Kings 19:14 we see Elijah speaking to God and complaining that the Israelites have rejected God's covenant, have put God's prophets to death and that he (Elijah) is the only one left and they are trying to kill him.  God responds to Elijah by instructing him to perform several anointings and also tells Elijah that He has reserved seven thousand in Israel that have not worshiped Baal (1st Kings 19:15-18).

       Elijah paints a bleak picture of Israel that suggests everyone has turned away from God.  God responds by telling Elijah that there are seven thousand who have not bowed to Baal. It should be obvious that Elijah's complaint is Elijah's complaint and not God complaining through him. Elijah is simply expressing his personal thoughts about Israel to which God then responds. While God's response to Elijah is the word of God, Elijah's complaint is not the word of God.  It is the word of Elijah. 

       There are multiple hundreds of these kinds of interactions between man and God recorded in Scripture were it is evident that the thoughts and sayings of man as opposed to the thoughts and sayings of God are being expressed. Where this is found to be true, it is the word of man and not the word of God that is recorded.    

       When Moses went up to Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments the people made and worshiped a golden calf. God was so infuriated over this that He told Moses He was going to destroy the whole bunch and begin all over again with Moses.  Moses is seen as talking God out of this decision and it is recorded that God relents (Exodus 32:1-14). It should be obvious that the words Moses spoke to God were the words of Moses and not the words of God.  

       While the Scriptures record the words of God, they also record the words of those who interact with God in various ways and where this is the case, such words are not the words of God but the words of those who are interacting with God or someone else.  

       In the book of Job we see a combination of narrative describing events in the life of Job and narrative reporting the word of God.  We see communication between God and Satan in the heavenly realm (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6). While some of this conversation is the speech of God and some the speech of Satan, for the writer of the book of Job to know of this conversation between God and Satan it must have been revealed by God to the writer and therefore this conversation could be seen as the word God. 

        However, there is recorded a great deal of speech of Job and his three friends subsequent to the conversation between God and Satan. This recorded speech is not the word of God but the word of Job and his three friends.  Even Job's wife is recorded as saying "curse God and die" (Job2:9). This was not the word of God but of Job's wife. Beginning in Job chapter 38 we see God responding to Job.  Here it is clearly the word of God that is being recorded. 

       Some may argue that the entire book of Job and all other Biblical Scriptural is the word of God in that the information provided is revealed by God to the writers of what became Biblical Scripture. Therefore, all Biblical Scripture is "God breathed."  However, as will be seen as we proceed with this discussion, this conclusion is very problematic.

       The NT contains a number of personal letters written to friends and associates in the ministry. Are we to believe that what is written in these letters are the words of God?  While in prison, Paul sends a letter to Philemon asking him to accept back Onesimus with whom Philemon had an apparent falling out.  Paul ends the letter by requesting that Philemon prepare a guest room for him when he is released from prison.  Is such a request the word of God?  He also sends greetings from a fellow prisoner and others.  Paul begins and ends a number of his letters with personal greetings from fellow workers in the ministry.  In Romans chapter 16, Paul requests that greetings be made to over a dozen different individuals.  Are such requested greetings the word of God?    

When is Biblical Scripture the Word of God (God breathed)?

       The phrase “word of God” appears dozens of times in the NT.  A careful review of every occurrence of this phrase reveals it is always used in association with a saying, teaching or command of God.  In Mark 7:13 Jesus sees the command to honor your father and mother as the word of God.  In Luke 3:2 the word of God is seen as coming to John the Baptist in that John would preach repentance and salvation, both of which are seen throughout Scripture as associated with God.  Jesus plainly said that what He taught was what He received from the Father (John 7:15-16).  Therefore, we can be assured that what Jesus taught was the word of God. The Revelation given to John is seen as given by God to Jesus who gave it to an angel to deliver to John. Therefore, the Revelation is the word of God.

       In Acts 4, the Apostles are seen as preaching the word of God which is seen as preaching the significance of the Christ event.  The phrase “word of God” is used repeatedly in the book of Acts and can always be seen to describe teaching associated with the Christ event, Covenantal transition or some doctrinal/theological issue.  In short, the word of God, as seen in the NT, is the gospel message (the good news). As discussed above, the Holy Spirit is seen as leading the disciples of Jesus into all truth. This “all truth” appears to largely relate to the teachings that define the theology of the New Covenant and not  accounts of the day to day activities of the men and women found in the scriptural narrative.    

       Accounts of such things as the travels of Jesus and the Apostles, descriptions of the events and activities associated with the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, accounts of Paul’s conversion and persecutions and accounts of interactions among the Apostles appear to  simply be historical narrative written like all historical narrative. The author does his homework and writes accordingly. This certainly appears to be the manner in which Luke wrote his Gospel and the Book of Acts. 

       Luke 1:1-3:  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.

       From this introduction by Luke it should be clear that what he wrote was based on his personal research and investigation and not that what he wrote was "God breathed" and therefore the word of God. While Luke does quote the word of God at times, much of what he wrote was the word of Luke about events and activities related to the things of God, events and activities he learned about through his personal research.  

       At times Luke records narrative that can be seen as directly spoken by God or generated by his Spirit.  Where this is the case, Luke is recording the word of God.  However, much of what Luke writes is an account of day to day events associated with the ministry of Christ and His disciples.  Luke plainly says he was writing an orderly account of such events. Luke clearly says that what he writes about are things that have been handed down by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word and that he carefully investigated the information handed down to him. Luke says nothing about this information being given to him by God. 

       It should be apparent that Luke's introduction to his Gospel (1:1-3) is the word of Luke and not the word of God. Luke is simply telling us how he went about gathering information in order to write the document which became known as the Gospel of Luke.

       Both the Old and New Testaments contain a lot of narrative about persons, places and things. While this narrative is often about persons, places and things associated with the expressed word of God, it is not really correct to classify such narrative as the word of God.  The word of God is just that. It is speech that is clearly seen as directly expressed by God or expressed through his Spirit working in and through human agents.  Does this include narrative describing the extraneous activities and events that are associated with the expressed speech of God?  Very unlikely.

       For example, in Acts 1:15-16, we have the account of Peter addressing the issue of replacing Judas. He reports that what happened to Judas was a fulfillment of what had been spoken by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David concerning Judas.  Peter then goes on to describe how Judas will be replaced. What had been spoken by the Holy Spirit through David would be the word of God.  Peter reflecting on the fact the Holy Spirit through David prophesied this event is not the word of God but the word of Peter describing a word of  God facilitated event.

       Another example can be taken from Acts 17:13. Here it is reported that “When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.”  The record of the Jews agitating the crowds is not the word of God.  It is a record of what the preaching of the word of God led to.  This is the kind of thing we see throughout Acts and the entire NT.  The NT speaks of the word of God being spoken.  The NT also provides a great deal of background material that shows the ramifications of the word of God being spoken.  This background material is not the word of God as such but simply a historical account of activity and events that occurred in association with the dissemination of the word of God. 

       In John chapter 2 we have the mother of Jesus talking to Jesus  In John chapter 3 we see the Pharisee Nicodemus talking to Jesus. Throughout the Gospels we see the religious leaders and Jesus' disciples talking to Jesus and talking to each other.   

      In John chapter 9 we have the account of a blind man being healed. In this account we  see the Pharisees talking to the blind man and the blind man talking to the Pharisees. We also see the parents of the blind man talking to the Pharisees and the Pharisees talking to the parents. Obviously these are not the words of God.  These are the words of ordinary people talking to each other.  There is much narrative like this in both the OT and the NT.

       In Acts chapter 5 we have the interaction between Peter and Ananias and his wife Sapphira over the matter of some property that was sold.  The recorded narrative is of three humans talking to each other.  Should this be considered the word of God?  Later in this chapter we see members of the Sanhedrin addressing Peter and other of the apostles and the Pharisee Gamaliel addressing the Sanhedrin. Once again the dialog is between humans.  While the matters being discussed are associated with things related to God, the fact remains that the dialog does not include the word of God per se but the word of those participating in the recorded dialog.

       In Acts 18:9-11 we read of Paul having a vision in which the Lord speaks to him and says "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."  Verse 11 tells us Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.  Here we have it written that God spoke to Paul and the words He spoke are quoted.  This obviously was the word of God.  We are also told Paul taught the word of God.  The narrative about Paul staying for a year and a half and teaching the word of God is not the word of God but simple narrative about Paul’s activity subsequent to God speaking to him.  

       Throughout the Biblical narrative you see speech that is not the word of God but the word of people simply interacting with each other or responding to events and activities going on around them. This narrative can only be called the word of God if it can be shown that God was revealing all this data to the writers of what became Biblical Scripture. The manner in which Luke describes how he came to write his Gospel and presumably the Book of Acts would dispel the notion that God provided the data.

       Throughout the Book of Acts you will find a great deal of narrative providing details of  Paul's travels as he engages in what are held to be three distinct missionary journeys. The writer of this document often uses the pronoun "we" when describing Paul's travels and events associated with those travels. In describing Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome in Acts 27, the writer uses the pronoun "we" repeatedly to document all that was done. You see phrases such as "we boarded a ship," "we put out to sea," "we made slow headway," "we moved along the coast," "we passed to the lee."  The writer is providing a virtual travel log of the trip to Rome.  Is this documentation of Paul's journey to Rome the word of God?  It would appear much more reasonable to see this documentation of Paul's journey as the eye witness account of someone who was traveling with Paul and kept a diary of day to day events and activities. 

       The NT contains letters written by Apostle Paul to various of his associates. Some of what we see in these letters is Paul making personal observations or requests. In his letter to Titus we read this: "As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.  Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need" (Titus 3:12-13). It should be obvious these are not the words of God but the words of Paul whereby he is making a personal request. 

       In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life (Philippians 4:2-3). Again, it should be obvious that Paul is making personal requests in a personal letter to the Philippian Christians.  This is not the word of God but the word of Paul.

       In 2nd John 1:1, we see the elder addressing a personal letter to a lady and her children. "The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth" In this letter the writer expresses joy that some of her children are walking in the truth. He instructs this lady to continue walking in love and concludes his letter by writing, "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete." It should be obvious that the writer is expressing his own thoughts here and not the word of God.

       In 3nd John the elder writes a letter to his friend Gaius. He expresses the hope that Gaius is enjoying good health and things are going well with him.  After discussing several  matters pertinent to the two of them, the writer concludes by saying "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name."  There is no reason to believe the narrative of this letter is the word of God. It is simply a letter written by the elder to his friend Gaius no different than you or I would write a letter to a friend. 

       In Exodus through Deuteronomy we see a lot of instruction given by God to Moses. We can certainly identify such instruction as the word of God in that this instruction is seen as coming direct from God. On the other hand, we also see the reporting of many places and events involving Israel leaving Egypt and their wanderings in the wilderness for forty years. This reporting of such places and events is not the word of God but a historical account of activities associated with their having received the word of God through their leader Moses.  There is no reason to believe God directly poured into the heads of the writer or writers of this history the information they used to write this history and in so doing this history is also the word of God.

       The phrase "word of God" appears only twice in the entire OT narrative and is seen as God speaking through a prophet. The phrase "word of the LORD" (YHWH) appears hundreds of times in the OT and can always be seen as God speaking through someone at the moment or as something God had previously spoken or how through the word of God  things happen.  It is here where we can rightly conclude it is the actual word of God that is being recorded.

       The rest of the OT narrative is a general historical record of the activities and events  experienced by the people written about.  There is nothing in this narrative to suggest the recording of these activities and events was orchestrated by God and therefore is the "word of God" or the "word of the LORD." It is much more reasonable to believe this history was recorded by those who had access to this information and wrote it down much as Luke is seen in gathering information and writing it down in the NT.

       In the NT Scriptures the English for “word” is translated from the Greek word logos.  Logos appears 330 times in the NT and is translated into English primarily as “word” or “saying.” The basic meaning of its root word is “to speak.” This word is derived from the verb legein which means to “say or speak.”  Logos can also mean “reason or mind.”  When we see the phrase “word of God” in Scripture, we are seeing the very mind of God revealed. However, when we see historical accounts of activities and events in Scripture that are not God speaking, there is no reason to believe we are reading the word of God. We are simply seeing the historical recording of activities and events that are associated with the word of God and not that such recording of activities and events is the word of God. 

       The difficulty presented by calling the Bible as a whole the word of God is highlighted by problems associated with determining what is and is not Biblical Scripture.  As covered in Part One of this series, in the first several centuries of the church various documents were accepted as Biblical Scripture and then later rejected as Biblical Scripture. Where  such accepted documents considered the word of God and if so, what were they considered when later they were rejected as Biblical Scripture?  To this very day the Catholic community of Christians accepts the OT Apocrypha as Biblical Scripture and presumably the word of God (God breathed). The Protestant community rejects the Apocrypha as the word of God. Is the book of Enoch presently found in the Ethiopian cannon a God breathed document?  Ethiopian Christians certainly think so.  The problems here should be apparent.    

       It should be apparent that to classify the entirety of the Bible as the word of God is a misnomer.  While the Bible contains the word of God, it also contains a great deal of additional material that is not the word of God. For example, there is no reason to believe the extensive histories found in the books of Chronicles and Kings were somehow imprinted in the minds of the writers by God and that such material was "God breathed."  It is more reasonable to conclude that, as we see with Luke in the New Testament, these authors did their homework and wrote their histories accordingly.

        Where Scriptural writers document words directly attributed to God, such as in the case of prophecy, it would appear we have the very thoughts (mind of God) and purposes of God represented.  Here we can safely identify what is written as being the word of God. However, even here there can be inconsistencies between different author’s recordings of such prophecies.  This should tell us God did not micromanaged how even His personally spoken words are recorded. 

       I believe Christian apologists open themselves up to ridicule by teaching that the entire Biblical narrative is the word of God and also insisting on absolute Scriptural inerrancy when it is evident such inerrancy does not exist.  As already discussed in this series, reliability of the spoken or written word does not require inerrancy.  We place faith in many spoken and written communications without demanding or expecting such communications to be inerrant.       


       In conclusion, it should be apparent that while the actual word of God is revealed and recorded in many places in the Biblical Scripture, this compilation of documents we call the Bible also contains a lot of material that is simply historical in nature or the writings of authors reflecting on the things of God or expressing their personal reaction to the things of God. In these cases, we are not reading the actual word of God.

       It should also be apparent that God has allowed scribal error, insertions of false material, doctrinal predispositions, and even political pressure to influence what is found in the copies of copies we have of the original Scriptural documents.  Because we have copies of copies and no original documents, the methodology called “textual criticism” is an important tool in Biblical Studies.  Textual criticism does serve to identify scribal errors, unauthentic material and other irregularities in Scripture. However, a problem arises when those who use this method to identify Scriptural irregularities conclude the whole of Scripture can’t be trusted because of these irregularities. This is not the way to approach the Biblical Scriptures or any other written material.     

       PART SIX