The Words from God – Bible 101


Questions for discussion answered below, since there is no worksheet for this section.

1. How would you respond to the idea that as long as the overall thought content of the Bible is true, exact wording doesn’t make a difference? Write down Matt 5.18.

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

I wouldn’t say it doesn’t make any difference, but I think we need to allow room for “contingency” — choice — in how the authors selected words and tone. To be sure, God superintended the choice of authors (including their intellectual limitations and personality), because He wanted to present that viewpoint, but we still need to recognize what that viewpoint is.

2. Is it possible to question the wording of some biblical texts and still to maintain the authority of the Scriptures?

I think we have to, since we very rarely have the original texts in the original language. Hebrew as such didn’t exist until the time of Ezra, after all. For example, it seems entirely fair to question whether Ezra’s translators used completely accurate terminology for the plants, animals, and geography mentioned in Genesis, no? I think we could agree that it was a “legitimate” translation in that context without necessarily requiring super-human accuracy.

Does the truthfulness and accuracy of Scripture apply to non-important details? Write out Proverbs 30.5.

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Sure, every word of God is flawless; but that doesn’t mean every translation of every word recorded by men who heard from God must be flawless. Scripture was written by faithful men to the best of their linguistic ability, but even today the “perfect” word is heavily dependent on context and one’s hearers.

I prefer to say that the words provided by human authors and translators were “contextually optimal”, in that they did the best they could with what they had — not perfect in comparison to some transcendent (artificial!) academic standard.

For most cases, the distinction is itself academic, but at the very least I hope it protects us from pride and an undue confidence in our own hermeneutic. Ultimately, we need to approach scripture in humility under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — no less than I’m sure the original authors did!

3. Look at 2 Pet 1.20-21. Here is another particular expression about the way God brought his words through men. Find out what you can about the phrase “as they were moved.”

First of all, it appears to be from the Kings James Version. Some other translations are “given by”, “under the power of”, “impelled”, and “borne on”. In the greek we have “phero“, with the sense of being carried away, like by a wind or a flood.

The verb in this text refers to speaking, not writing. How can you tell that Peter is thinking about the entire process of revelation and recording revelation?

Can we ever be sure of such things? Certainly, the context refers to Scripture, which implies the written word, but the explicit endorsement is on verbal proclamation. From my limited experience in such matters, it is not always trivial to record what one has spoken under the influence of the Spirit. As with recording historical events, one does the best one can, and it can be “faithful” without being “perfect.”

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