by Dr. B. Varghese
The Bible is neither a collection of mere historical treatises nor traditions. It is not a religious document as some religions have. But it is the very Word of God that nurtures and facilitates the faith of the community of God’s people irrespective of religion, caste or status.
The term ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek word ‘biblia’ which means a collection of books. The Bible is not a single book but a collection of 66 books with a variety of literature and contents. The Bible uniquely maintains a sequence and progression of thought. This is a distinctive mark in the uniqueness of the Bible. It is meticulous and avoids incongruity and inconsistency in presentation, which is a normal feature in any sort of writing, composed at different times by different authors. The validity and authenticity of the Bible lies in its unique presentation. In spite of varied form of content and literature, its historical veracity and acceptability are worth noting.
Here are five important factors that contribute to the uniqueness of the Bible from other religious scriptures.
People have misconceptions when they regard the Bible as the revelation of God. They think that the Bible is like Koran i.e., the truth dictated directly by God where the authors are merely passive instruments. If so, the language, words, socio-cultural and political background of the text, everything belongs to God himself and authors have no particular role in it. This is called mechanical dictation. Some others like Karl Barth claim that the Bible is not the word of God but it contains the Word of God. These two positions are extreme which we cannot accept. However, we affirm the Bible as the record of God’s revelation which sustains the faith of Israel and the Christian church.
The Greek term ‘apocalypse’, for revelation means that revelation is a process through which God takes initiative to disclose Himself to humankind. He has revealed Himself at different phases of salvation history through nature, history, prophets and specifically through Christ as well as His Word (Heb.1:1f). Through the living word (Christ) and the written word (Bible) we encounter the culmination of God’s revelation.
Biblical revelation is special because it is based on its interaction with human history as part of God’s salvation plan. It is associated with God’s speech followed by His action as found in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 17:1 ff). As the Bible is the record of God’s revelation, we see the luminous face of God, experience His abiding presence and hear His melodious voice through this living word.
The Bible claims that “all Scriptures are inspired by God” (2Tim.3:!6). The term ‘inspiration’ comes from the Greek word “theopneustics’ which literally means “God-breathed.” It indicates a special enabling activity of God in humankind as God did with the first man, Adam, who became a living creature as and when He breathed into him. The fact that the Bible is inspired of God implies God’s special enabling work in selected men (authors) who wrote God’s message for communication to His people.
Inspiration does not mean verbatim dictation but refers to men (prophets) who spoke and wrote the message of the Lord under the direction of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet.1: 20,21). Here select men (nearly forty authors) were used by God, not like machines or tape-recorders, but as responsible persons whose best faculties, language, culture and background were used for the composition of the Bible (Lk.1:1-4). At the same time the message absolutely belongs to God. It suggests divine and human participation in the formation of the Bible.
The Bible is authoritative because it is the record of God’s revelation and the very word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Mk. 7:13, Acts 4:31, Rom. 9:6, 2 Tim.2:15). The New Testament expression “Verily, Verily, I say unto you” signifies the authoritative nature of the Bible. Both Israel and the church have acknowledged its authority in their practical life. Jesus Christ used it as a powerful weapon in His ministry to drive away demonic forces and challenge the parochial resistance of the Pharisees and Sadducees towards His saving activity.
Another significant factor in the uniqueness of the Bible is its infallible nature-its freedom from errors. It has no incongruity although it was written by different authors at different times. The characteristic mark of the Bible is that it has no mythical or spurious statements.
Since the Bible is infallible, i.e., free from errors, it is trustworthy for everyone. It is trustworthy because its promises are reliable and true. Its unique Author, God Himself, is faithful and immutable. His words are trustworthy. Its creative, saving and healing power verifies that it is trustworthy.
Man has made many books. The only book that has made man is the Bible. This becomes increasingly true and pertinent as we examine the uniqueness of the Bible. In spite of many religious scriptures in a multi-religious country like India, the Bible plays a unique role in terms of its acceptance and validity among the people, irrespective of their religious and cultural differences.
We affirm the Bible not just as a religious textbook but as the product of a faith community whose spiritual nurture is dependent on it. We cannot accept as Karl Barth claims that the Bible contains the Word of God. It is the Word of God in reality and experience. It still acts as a guide to the blind, light to those in darkness and milk and honey to those who hunger for righteousness.
MGM Ministries-Article Source: trumpetmagazine.com/read.aspx?lang=1&id=5&mid=27 – November 2004