Revelation of God’s Word
God took the initiative to disclose or reveal Himself to mankind (Hebrews 1:1). The vehicles varied; sometimes it was through the created order, at other times through visions/dreams or speaking prophets. However, the most complete and understandable self-disclosures were through the propositions of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). The revealed and written Word of God is unique in that it is the only revelation of God that is complete and that so clearly declares man’s sinfulness and God’s provision of the Savior.
Revelation of God’s Word
Inspiration of God’s Word
The revelation of God was captured in the writings of Scripture by means of “inspiration.” This has more to do with the process by which God revealed Himself than the fact of His self-revelation. (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter explains the process, “20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” (2 Peter 1:20-21). By this means, the Word of God was protected from human error in its original record by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 18:18; Matthew1:22). A section of Zechariah 7:12 describes it most clearly, “…the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.” The ministry of the Spirit extended to both the part (the words) and to the whole in the original writings.
Canonicity of the Bible
The Bible is actually one book with one Divine Author, though it was written over a period of 1,500 years through the pens of almost 40 human writers. The Bible began with the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2, written by Moses about 1405 B.C., and extends to the eternity future account of Revelation 21 and 22, written by the Apostle John about A.D. 95. During this time, God progressively revealed Himself and His purposes in the inspired Scriptures. But this raises a significant question about how we know what sacred writings were to be included in the canon of Scripture and which were to be excluded.
Over the centuries, three widely recognized principles were used to validate those writings which came as a result of divine revelation and inspiration. First, the writing had to have a recognized prophet or apostle as its author (or one associated with them, as in the case of Mark, Luke, Hebrews, James, and Jude). Second, the writing could not disagree with or contradict previous Scripture. Third, the writing had to have general consensus by the church as an inspired book. Thus, when various councils met in church history to consider the canon, they did not vote for the canonicity of a book but rather recognized, after the fact, what God had already written.
With regard to the Old Testament, by the time of Christ all of the Old Testament had been written and accepted in the Jewish community. The last book, Malachi, had been completed about 430 B.C. Not only does the Old Testament canon of Christ’s day conform to the Old Testament which has since been used throughout the centuries, but it does not contain the uninspired and spurious Apocrypha, that group of 14 rogue writings which were written after Malachi and attached to the Old Testament about 200-150 B.C. in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX), appearing to this very day is some versions of the Bible. However, not one passage from the Apocrypha is cited by any New Testament writer, nor did Jesus affirm any of it as He recognized the Old Testament canon of His era (Luke 24:27,44).
By Christ’s time, the Old Testament canon had been divided up into two lists of 22 or 24 books respectively, each of which contained all the same material as the 39 books of our modern versions. In the 22 book canon, Jeremiah and Lamentations were considered as one, as were Judges and Ruth. The same three key tests of canonicity that applied to the Old Testament also applied to the New Testament. In the case of Mark and Luke/Acts, the authors were considered to be, in effect, the penmen for Peter and Paul respectively. James and Jude were written by Christ’s half-brothers. While Hebrews is the only New Testament book whose authorship is unknown for certain, its content is so in line with both the Old Testament and New Testament, that the early church concluded it must have been written by an apostolic associate. The 27 books of the New Testament have been universally accepted since A.D. 350-400 as inspired by God.