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May
10

What do We Believe about the Bible?

There are four things that followers of Jesus believe about the Bible. I don’t have time to cover them in detail, but let me mention them and I’ll give you a website where you can learn more if you want.

This is really important material. The Bible wants to become your guide, and you have to decide whether you will believe it or not.

1. Inspiration

We believe that the Bible is “inspired.” This is not the idea that the Bible is inspiring, like a good novel or comic strip depending on your reading tastes. The Bible is inspiring, but that’s not the point. The doctrine of inspiration has to do with its source. Inspiration is the belief that the Bible came from the very mouth of God, that it contains his very words. Paul is encouraging his friend Timothy to persevere in his preaching, and writes this.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

“Breathed out” is a helpful translation. There was not a word in the Greek language to describe what Paul wanted to say, so Paul did what Greek allows him to do — he make up a word. He took the word “God” and the word “breathed” and put them together. Scripture is God-breathed; the words came from his very mouth.

Peter says the same thing using the imagery of being “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

“No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

2. Authority

We believe in the “authority” of the Bible. Because the words come from God’s very mouth, they carry his authority. That is the flow of logic in Paul’s verse above. Because all of Scripture is breathed out by God, it is therefore profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training a person in righteousness. This is how Timothy, the man of God, can be made competent, to be equipped to do his ministry.

3. Canonicity

We believe in the process of “canonicity.” This means we believe God superintended the process of the church deciding what books belong in the Bible. This process took place over 400 years, and we believe God’s Spirit made sure we got it right. The sixty-six books we have are the right ones, and all the other books that were left out deserved to be left out because God did not write them.

4. Trustworthy

We believe the Bible is “trustworthy.” This ultimately is the issue for us. Because we believe God is true, we also believe that his words are true and can be trusted. We believe the Bible we have today accurately records Jesus words and deeds, and that the later writers like Paul, and the earlier writers like Moses, got it right. And so we look to the Bible to hear God’s authoritative word delivered to us.

I am sorry to have covered these points so quickly, but it is important that you as a new follower be aware of them. If you want to learn more them, please visit www.BiblicalTraining.org, click on the “Discipleship” link and then “Track 3,” and attend my “New Testament” class (or just click here). There are 3-4 hours of my lectures on these four topics.

About Bill Mounce

Bill lives as a writer in Washougal, WA. He is also the President of BiblicalTraining.org, a non-profit organization offering world-class educational resources for equipping leaders in the local church, and Research Professor in New Testament at Western Seminary. Bill is the author of the bestselling Greek textbook Basics of Biblical Greek, Greek for the Rest of Us, and many other resources. Bill was also the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, and is currently serving on the New International Version translation committee.

Comments

  1. Conspicuously absent seems to be the word “inerrant.” Inspired, good; trustworthy, good – it just seems that many who don’t hold to inerrancy would also claim to believe in inspiration and trustworthiness – which is why explicit labels like ‘inerrant’ come into vogue. Oversight or intention?

    • Bill Mounce says:

      Technically, “infallible” and “inerrant” mean the same thing. Historically, they are different, since “infallible” tends to be attached to the view that says the Bible is true in areas of faith and practice but necessarily other areas such as science and history, a distinction I do not agree with. Of course, if you don’t know the history of the past forty years, you don’t know the distinction. But people may have heard negative things about “inerrancy,” so I decided to not use the term so it doesn’t get in the way of a new believer’s progress but to define scripture as being wholly true and authoritative and trustworthy.

      • Technically, Bill, that’s incorrect. Infallability pertains to your point #4 regarding integrity and trustworthiness of the Scriptures, even in their current form/translation. Inerrancy pertains to the original manuscripts and must precede “Authority” in your lineup. Without it, we cannot move on to your other (quite valid and good) points.

        • Bill Mounce says:

          Check Websters, and you will see that “infallible” means with out error.

      • Just noticed that you didn’t use the word infallible either!

  2. Not all followers of Jesus hold to inerrancy. I guess you could say that not all followers of Jesus hold to the other four either, but they certainly seem to hold more common ground among evangelicals.

    • If you define inerrancy as the idea that the Bible does not claim something to be true that is in fact false, then it is questionable if one could truly be a Christian and not hold inerrancy. “I follow Jesus but I think that sometimes he either lies to us intentionally or he’s simply mistaken.” One would certainly wonder if such a person was truly a Christian. I’m leaning towards no.

      • Bill Mounce says:

        I would never make inerrancy part of the absolute requirement to be a Christian. Jesus doesn’t. Paul doesn’t. And I know too many Christians whom I respect who don’t hold to inerrancy.

        • 1. But isn’t turning to Jesus as your Lord/master a requirement for salvation? If you reject the inerrancy of the Bible, are you not rejecting Jesus’ Lordship? For how can you submit to someone if you reject what he says?

          2. You mention that you respect a lot of Christians who deny inerrancy, and I was wondering: I have never met a person who denied inerrancy who didn’t also deny other fundamental/essential doctrines of the faith (deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, sin, repentance, etc.), it could be the circles I’ve traveled in, but could you list any denomination/church/prominent pastor throughout history who denied inerrancy but didn’t deny other fundamental/essential doctrines?

          Thanks for the article.

          ~JEC

          • Bill Mounce says:

            While I don’t believe there are errors, let’s just say we find one small insignificant statement that, let’s say, Luke says. Would you abandon your faith in Jesus and fail to submit to his lordship? I doubt it.

            I actually know many, many wonderful Christian men and women whom I trust and respect and care for, and they think there are a few inaccuracies in Scripture. Maybe you are right and it is an issue of circles.

      • First of all I would like to thank Bill for letting a stranger like me comment on his post. It was very well written.

        I think the understanding of inerrancy might come down to how you understand inspiration.

        When you define inspiration as “Inspiration is the belief that the Bible came from the very mouth of God, that it contains his very words.” – then inerrancy naturally follows.

        If you believe that God inspired human writers who were limited in their own knowledge, and interpreted and contextualized for their audience, or that God himself put things in ways the audience could understand then we can hold that the inspired text is might be something less than inerrant. The mustard seed as the smallest seed in the world would be an example of the second part of this. I can have a high view of scripture, yet not accept this as being a true statement.

  3. I’m curious about number two: How do you know the Bible is authoritative? Because it says it is? You say it comes “from God’s very mouth” and it “is breathed out by God,” but on what authority do you say that? The Bible’s? Isn’t that circular reasoning?

  4. Bill

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole inerrancy issue. It seems an important one to me.

  5. Mary Spaulding says:

    Bill this is what I believe about the Bible. Well done. I am having a conversation on the internet with a man who is concerned about God saying to wipe out man, woman, child and infant of the Amalakites. Any suggestions on how I can answer him. I have puzzled about this myself. God bless you Bill, I am enjoying your book “Greek for the rest of us.” The chapter on translations of the Bible was enlightening and things I had not considered.
    MJS

  6. Ron Swaren says:

    If Christianity esentially means to follow Christ, do we really completely know everything that He did or said? In John 21-25 it says that there was a lot of stuff they didn’t write down ( my loose interpretation of possible Jewish hyperbole). I think this makes it a challenge—the same a reporter would have investigating any event that happened two millenia ago. But now its norms are deeply embedded into our culture and individual subconscious life —and other people around the world seem to be generally accepting the “Western ” way of life. It’s the foundation that we have to build upon, but we need to be accomodating to the sceptics at the same time.

    • Bill Mounce says:

      We do not know everything, but we know what we need to know. That is the basic answer.

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