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53. Bibliology: The Doctrine of the Scriptures

Purpose: It is the purpose of this session to show how the Bible came together and to demonstrate its uniqueness.


1. You will understand how the books of the Bible were chosen from among many writings.

2. You will learn the criteria used to select books for the canon of Scripture.

3. You will see the patience of the early believers in accepting New Testament writings.

4. You will see something of the uniqueness of Scripture.

Scripture Memory

For no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

2 Peter 1:21


1. Mutual sharing and prayer.

2. Discuss the subject matter of this session.

3. Discuss new terms.

4. Discuss summary questions.

5. Discuss different translations of Scripture, and which is most practical for the disciple.


Christians have a bias toward the written Word of God. We believe the Bible and the message it has for us today. This is because it has proven its authenticity to those who live by it, because of its very nature and because of the claims it makes for itself. This study will include some of the ways God has revealed Himself, attitudes men have toward the Scriptures, how books of the Bible (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament) were gathered into a single book with 66 books, and why understanding these things is perhaps the most important area of study we will undertake. Surely if we did not have the Bible, we would only speculate about God and His creation. If there were no Bible, and we only saw nature and the message which it speaks, we would not have an adequate revelation of Jehovah. We would be left with only human reason, science, and the speculations of men which are not enough to bring us to God, We would have no knowledge of the sacrifice of His Son. We would have nothing to teach us how to live or die.


Terms Used for the Scriptures

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblion which means book. The original writings were prepared on papyrus, which was a plant that was cut into strips and dried.

The word “Scriptures" comes from the Greek word graphe which means writings. The idea of “Scripture” saying something is presented to us in the Bible, and is equivalent to God speaking.

From your earlier analysis of Psalm 119, (session 15) see how many different ways the Scriptures are referred to.













How does Jehovah regard His Word?

Psalm 138:2

2 Corinthians 3:14

Acts 7:38

List any other terms you might be aware of in your own study of the Word of God

How Men See the Scriptures

I. Neo-orthodoxy - This system of thinking puts Christ above the written word and says the Bible only becomes authoritative when it speaks to the individual. This system of thought teaches the Bible is not the Word of God but only contains the Word of God.

II. Romanism - This is the Catholic position. The “church” is the final authority on what the Bible says and the channel of revelation. Since the Bible is the product of the church, only the church can be the final authority concerning what the Scriptures say. Tradition is also a source of revelation. What does Galatians 1:14; and 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6 say about traditions?

III. Mysticism - The Bible is incomplete. Other revelations have been given which are equally true. Why do we say the Seventh-Day Adventists hold this position?

What about Mormonism?

How is “Christian Science” guilty of this error?

A false mysticism is found even in some Evangelical circles. Some hold that God actually speaks to them and the words are authoritative. There are those who want to divorce their spouses contrary to Scripture, and the claim is that there is a “word from God” on that issue. Sometimes such words are concerning divorce when one simply will not follow the Scriptures. Hear this! God never leads or speaks to one contrary to His written word. He simply does not do that.

There is also a “true mysticism” in the experience of Christians. This is taught in John 14:26 and 16:13. To what does this refer?

How does the Holy Spirit work in this framework?

What sin against the Holy Spirit is committed when one is disobedient to His leading, 1 Thessalonians 5:19?

IV. Evangelicals (The Conservative Protestant position). See 2 Timothy 3:16, Psalm 119:89 and see if you can state the position of Evangelicals.

From these passages we understand that the Bible is infallible and inerrant as the Word of God (as it came originally) and is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice.

What the Bible Says About Itself

It is important for the reader to understand that even as one has a right to testify for himself, so it is important for us to hear what this book and its writers say.

See 1 Corinthians 14:37. As Paul is speaking, what does he say concerning his words?

See also 1 Thessalonians 2:13. John spoke of His words as being authoritative. What does 1 John 4:6 say was equal to rejecting God’s Word?

What statement in the Old Testament used over and over again would be significant to this issue? See Jeremiah 1:11 as an example.

This way of looking at Scripture is called internal evidence. Another way of looking at the Scriptures is from the outside looking in. Whereas we have just completed talking about internal evidences, we will now look briefly at external evidences, or things about the Bible that make it unique. These are external evidences.

The Bible — God’s Revelation to Man

The Scriptures are the special revelation of God to mankind. What is God like - what are His characteristics? God’s central attribute is __________, Habakkuk 1:13. Yet He is characterized by love, mercy and ______________, Titus 2:11. The Bible also speaks of the true condition of mankind which is ________________________________________Isaiah 53:6.

The Scriptures also contain prophetic utterances that speak of the future and what is to come and as well as what has already been fulfilled, cf. the book of Daniel; Matthew 24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

The Scriptures present issues related to morality and living in the present world. We are to ____ ______ ____ ______ ________ Ephesians 4:30, and be ________ ______ ______ __________ Ephesians 6:10,11 to be able to live lives that are adequate for Christ.

Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us how God spoke to man by _____________. First He spoke, then He took upon Himself the form of a ___________ and revealed to us all that God is, John 14:8-9. He who has seen Jesus has seen all that the Father is. God has spoken in other ways as well. During other times, He used dreams, visions, the appearances of angels; and in the Old Testament, He used prophets, i.e. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and others.

The Bible and Inspiration

Christians contend that the Bible is the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The word in the original is only found in this one passage of Scripture in all of Koine Greek.

The meaning of inspiration is “God-breathed.” God literally “breathed it out.”

What is the value, then, of Scripture? 2 Timothy 3:16 says it has value for _________________, ____________________, __________________.

The ultimate purpose is found in vs. 17. What is that?

It is as if the wind took the ship, so the Holy Spirit took men used by God and “carried them along” so they would speak the Word of God, 2 Peter 1:20,21.

What is biblical “inspiration”? I would like to quote Ryrie and his definition. “God superintended the human authors of the Bible so that they composed and recorded without error His message to mankind in the words of their original writings.”

External Evidences of Inspiration

When I stand at a distance and look at the Scripture, what are some of its characteristics that make it unique? How is it different from all other books in the world? The consideration of these seven external evidences is one that involves this valid approach. Taken individually, each by itself is not a sufficient argument declaring uniqueness. But together, these become a bundle of unbreakable arguments that testify to the authenticity of Scripture and its authority in our lives. This is a brief session in Christian apologetics.


The Bible is the oldest book or thing most of us have ever possessed. The book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, is at least 4,000 years old. Revelation is the most recent book. It is approximately 1,900 years old. The Bible, therefore, is a least 1,900 years old in its completed form. It has survived all attempts of men and nature to destroy it. The Roman emperor Diocletian ordered all Bibles destroyed and decreed death for anyone who yet had copies of the Scripture in his possession. When Constantine was “converted,” he asked for Bibles. Within 24 hours, at least 25 copies of the complete Scriptures were delivered to him. These were handwritten. What would you feel about a man who had been crucified, drowned, stoned and yet lived? Would he not be considered a superhuman? The Bible has survived even more. It is the most hated and most loved book in the universe. Surely its unique ability to survive sets it apart as different!


Scientific text books 100 years old are a curiosity. A medical journal about one hundred and fifty years old prescribed the following treatment for cataracts. “ Take one totally black cat. Burn it to ashes and sprinkle the ashes in the eye. This will eliminate the film that grows over the eye.” Even 10 years old, they are out of date. Yet the Bible is up to date in whatever area it touches or addresses. Its medical laws are contemporary, Leviticus 13:45-46. The teaching concerning life and the blood is modern, Leviticus 17:11. The use of antiseptics is advocated, Luke 10:34. And the Bible speaks of the “circle of the earth,” and is up to date astronomically when in Job we read of “Arcturus and her sons.”


It is one book, but in reality, it is a library. The Bible was written over a period of about 2,000 years by 44 authors, on every known subject of literature plus one, prophecy. In Scripture you can find any kind of literature. It contains history, mystery, and romance. It is said that Ben Franklin attended a meeting of literary giants in Paris where each person was to tell the greatest love story he had ever heard. One by one, men told their stories. When it came Ben Franklin’s time, he told the story of Ruth and Boaz. The listeners were spellbound as he related the magnificent story. When he had finished, they all applauded. And one asked Franklin where he had ever found such a story. “Why,” he said, “in the Bible which you all reject!”


Although there were 44 authors who wrote 66 books on at least 50 different subjects, and although these men were scholars, shepherds, kings, fishermen, medical doctors, tax collectors, teachers and statesmen, and although few of these men knew each other, there is perfect agreement. Old and New Testaments complement each other. The New is in the Old concealed— the Old is in the New revealed.

One Theme

The Bible is a history of redemption. The coming One, the One Who came, and the One Who is coming again. Redemption is the crimson thread that runs throughout the Scriptures. The story begins in Genesis 3:15. It is elaborated through typology, the sacrificial system, the tabernacle, prophetic teaching, and finally He is here (the Gospels). And the Epistles become the ultimate elaboration of His life and all that it means.

Cultural Power

Jeremiah 23:29. Wherever the Scripture has gone and has an impact, it changes lives, upgrades cultures, and elevates the status of women. Compare the cultures of the United States and China — England and India. Which are the oldest? The most modern? John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, evangelized those islands bringing savages to civilization. It is stated that when American servicemen landed in these islands during World War 2, they found the natives with Bibles. Some of the natives were ridiculed. One old tribesman said, "If it were not for these Bibles, we would have you in the pot."


The Bible is not only the best book to live by, it is the only book to die by, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 2:21. When men are about to die, it is unlikely they would call for the reading of Shakespeare or Poe. But the Bible takes away the fear of death like no other book.

Test of Canonicity:

How the Books of the New Testament Became Accepted as Scripture.

In order to help you understand this material, you should first be familiar with the terminology related to this area. "Canon" means "measuring rod." It is a word used in relation to the criteria or standards which certain writings must reach in order to be part of the Scriptures. "Canon" also is used in relation to the complete collection of Scriptures that have met the standards or judgments of the church and are considered sacred. "Canonicity" is an adjective describing a state of being acceptable in the "canon."

When I am talking, therefore, about measures that test the acceptability of any writing to be included in Scripture, I speak of its __ __ __ __ __ icity. This demonstrates that a book of the Scriptures has met certain ____________. And these standards assure its acceptance into the total _____________ of inspired Scriptures. We want to understand how all the books that are part of the New Testament were accepted and to know what the various standards were, as determined by the early church.

Perhaps it would be reasonable to say that there was an overriding principle in the consideration of the total subject of canonicity. See if you can find that guiding principle yourself. Read John 16:13 and write the answer in the following space.

Surely the church could trust the Lord Jesus and this promise to direct them.

Test #1

The first test of canonicity was divine authorship. Is the book inspired? Was it given by God through men, or did it come from men and their efforts alone? (This, of course, would be a subjective judgment, but it nonetheless had to involve the universal agreement in the body of those considered worthy of making such a judgment.)

This consideration, then, is relative to the book being inspired, which means ___________ _________________ (See the meaning of inspiration from earlier in this session). "God-breathed" is the literal meaning of what ________________ is. And to be considered for a place in the _____________ of Scripture, agreement had to be reached concerning it being ________ -given, rather than man-given. The overriding characteristic of the writing must be that it came from _______.

Test #2

The first test we have looked at is the test of divine ________________. Now we will look at the test of human authorship. This consideration is not one that simply asks "was it edited or written by a human." Obviously some man would be involved in its writing. But the kind of person who wrote it is the central issue in this test of canonicity.

What type of person would the early church feel should be considered as one through whom the Spirit of God would speak? See if you can choose from among the following which would be considered possible writers.

_____1. Those who were very bright—the highly educated in philosophy and religion.

_____2. Men who were not so bright because God desires to choose foolish things to use.

_____3. Those who actually saw Jesus and experienced a relationship with Him during their lifetime.

_____4. Those who were considered spokesmen by the early church, persons who truly knew God.

_____5. Any person through whom the Spirit of God might speak.

In the space provided, summarize the problems with the criteria above that you do not choose, and talk a bit about the one you feel is the right answer.

Let's look at these criteria and see which we might decide upon as one used by the early church as a test of canonicity.

The first concerns the educated and very bright. That God does and did use men who were bright is readily evident. Paul the apostle was an educated rabbi. But this was not true of Peter and James. They were simple and ordinary men.

The second can be reversed as an argument. Not all writers of the New Testament books were unlearned men. Paul is certainly an exception and he was very bright. Luke was a physician and would be considered an intelligent man.

The third criterion, seeing Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him, was apparently not a test of genuine authorship because Paul and Luke apparently never knew Him personally.

The fourth criteria is the answer that is correct. Each writer or author must be a recognized spokesman or key person in the family of God by the early church.

The fifth criteria is a problem and perhaps the most difficult of all. Anyone can claim to speak by the Spirit of God. And surely if one is speaking by the Spirit of God, He needs to be listened to. But making that evaluation of someone who is not considered a likely author by the early church would be a difficult thing. This could not be a test of canonicity.

The two tests we have considered to this point, therefore, are the test of ______________________ , and whether or not one was considered a _______________ for God by the early church.

Test #3

The third test relates to authenticity. By authentic is meant that something is true. When we speak of the canon of Scripture including the criterion of truthfulness of material, we are speaking of auth _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ or simply that the material is ________________. Included in the need for truthfulness or ______________ is the need for true historical accuracy. This relates to the historicity of the record. Is it a record of things that actually happened? This was one of the criteria for canonicity and relates to a particular book being trustworthy and accurate and therefore included in the ___________________.

Particular interest in an extra-Scriptural writing in relation to this test might be in the Book of Mormon in which there are all kinds of historical errors and statements which in no way could be true. Therefore, the Book of Mormon could not meet the tests of ________________.

Test #4

The fourth test of canonicity is that of genuineness. Did it truly come from the author whose name it bears? Are there legitimate reasons to doubt that the stated author truly wrote the book? If there were such reasons, the _________________ of the book would be in doubt. One book creating a problem for the early church was the book of Hebrews. The problem with this book was that it has no stated author. In this case, it was ultimately decided that even though there was no author, the material was such that Scripture would be incomplete without it. Therefore, it was included in the canon and is part of our Bible today.

Test #5

The fifth test of canonicity is that which relates to testimony. Testimony involves the witness of the Jewish and early Christian church, as well as the later Christian church. It was important that it be included in the ancient versions of the Bible. Books that did not have universal ________________ of the early and later church were not considered _ _ _ _ _ ical. The Apocrypha was one such collection of books that did not have universal ____________ of the early church, although it was included in the Septuagint (the first translation of the Old Testament into Greek). It is also interesting to note that the Apocrypha was not included in the Catholic Bible until 1546 at the Council of Trent. This inclusion was for the purpose of stemming the tide of the Reformation which had made great inroads into Catholicism.

Test #6

The final test of canonicity was its ability to edify. This word means to "build up" or to bless. It is apparent that every part of the Bible is not equally edifying. But if a writing had no value relating to edification, it was not considered a part of the ________________ of Scripture. It simply was not canon _ _ _ _ . To edify means to ____________or to _________________ .

See if you can find what the following verses say about the Scriptures themselves.

John 14:26

1 Corinthians 14:37

2 Peter 3:2

2 Peter 3:15,16

The early church knew by 150 A.D. which books were inspired. The canon remained open, however, until 397 A.D. For nearly 250 years the common witness of the Spirit was to the 27 books comprising our present New Testament. The same Lord by whom they were ___________ - ______________, had led to their placement into the ________________ of the Scriptures.

Relationship with the Scriptures: Four Great Words

1. Admit: Open your entire being. Study lovingly. Let the Word be God's voice to direct and encourage you.

2. Submit: Let the truth of Scripture grip you and govern you. Let plain declarations be an end to all controversy in your life. Follow Scripture explicitly.

3. Commit: Grip truth by hiding it in your heart. Let it be an anchor to your soul in times of temptation and other kinds of trial.

4. Transmit: Don't be a pool--be a stream. Share the Scriptures you have. Make every truth tenfold your own by passing it on. It will be fitted into your lips, Proverbs 22:17-21.

And remember, we are to look for faithful men, not those necessarily who are enthusiastic, 2 Timothy 2:2 !!!

The Inspiration of the Scripture

2 Timothy 3:16

I. Progressive Natural Insight —Natural

In this type of inspiration, there is no intrusion on God's part in communicating with man.

Problems: This view of inspiration opens the door for rejection of the miraculous and any supernatural revelation.

II. Illumination—the writers rather than the writings were inspired. The

Bible contains the Word of God rather than is the Word of God.

Problems: There is no truth communicated beyond the understanding of the writers.

III. Inspired Concepts—God gave concepts through inspiration and allowed men to write them down in their own words.

Problems: There is no safeguard against error.

IV. Partial Inspiration—The doctrine and moral truths are inspired. History and other areas beyond doctrine are not necessarily correct.

Problems: Man has become the critic as to what is inspired. Scripture says "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God."

V. Dictation or Mechanical—Men were passive instruments and their personalities were not involved at all.

Problems: Different styles cannot be accounted for--the medical language of Luke and the sophisticated Greek of Paul as opposed to Peter's style.

VI. Plenary Verbal—The Scripture is fully and equally inspired. There are statements in Scripture which are not true, such as John 7:52 and John 9:31. These are accurate recordings of statements that were not true. The writers were directed in the use of words, yet their own personalities and choice of words were used.

Inspiration is closed. There is nothing to be added or taken away, Revelation 22:18,19. 2 Peter 1:21 says, "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Theories and Approaches to the Nature of the Scriptures

This is a section we deal with the nature of the uniqueness of the Bible. The Scripture claims uniqueness for itself . What do the following verses say about the method involved in Scripture's coming into existence?

1. 2 Timothy 3:16

2. 2 Peter 1:21

3. 1 Corinthians 14:37

4. Psalm 119:89

5. Matthew 5:18

On the basis of what you have found in these verses, how would you describe in your own words the Scripture's uniqueness?

Definition: 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is "God-breathed." The word "God-breathed" speaks of the unique inspiration of Scripture. These words are not associated with any other writing known to man. We can rightfully say that Scripture is _____________ or _________ - ______________. The nature of this inspiration is a question among men today. We want to help you be acquainted with the discussion related to this and also help you see the evangelical position today.

I. The first approach we will consider is called natural or progressive natural insight. This is in reality no special kind of inspiration at all. It puts the Scripture on the same basis as other books that can be helpful such as those written by Robert Schuller, Sigmund Freud, or Charles Swindoll. The problem is that this concept gives no assurance of accuracy and puts the Scriptures on the same level as any other writing. It also opens the door to the rejection of the miraculous.

This approach is called __________________ or __________________ _________________ ___________________.

II. The second approach is called illumination. In this approach, it is merely the person writing who is inspired rather than the writing itself. The Holy Spirit has no part in the guiding of the writers but leaves men to write as they are illuminated. The problem with this theory is that there is no truth communicated beyond the understanding of the human instruments who are doing the writing. With your understanding of the word "God-breathed," why is it impossible that this theory would be the method of communication of the Scripture?

This approach says the ___________ rather than the _________________ is inspired and is called _________________.

III. The third approach discussed in this session is called inspired concepts. In this approach, God gave the concepts to men through inspiration and allowed them to write in their own words. In other words, to illustrate, God inspired the concept of blood atonement and allowed men to formulate the doctrine in their own minds. He inspired the truth of justification and allowed Paul to state it in his own words. What problems can you see in this approach to inspiration? Put your ideas in your own words.



What inconsistency is taught by this theory when we consider Matthew 5:18?

This approach is called ________________ __________________ .

IV. Another approach is partial inspiration. This approach is an attempt to decide which parts of Scripture are inspired and which are not. Generally, historical and scientific areas are considered non-inspired, while doctrine and moral truth are considered to bear the mark of inspiration if this approach is held. Large chunks of Scripture from the Old Testament, creation accounts, miraculous accounts in both the Old and New Testaments, the early history of mankind, etc., are relegated to the areas of folklore and common literature. These are arbitrary decisions of men who decide what is inspired and what is not. What problems do you see in approaching inspiration in this way?



What does 2 Timothy 3:16 say that contradicts this theory?

This is called the ____________ ______________ theory.

V. A fifth approach is called dictation or mechanical. In this framework of thinking, Scripture is given through the Holy Spirit and the totality of Scripture is included and is equally inspired. However, the writers were passive instruments—like keys on a piano—without any personality or part in the writing. This theory is held by some evangelicals and fundamentalists. There are obvious problems with this form of inspiration.

A. The style of writing varies from writer to writer (Peter with Paul).

B. The style of the writer varies when different situations exist. Compare Romans and Galatians.

C. The terminology of writers often relates to their occupations. Luke was a medical doctor and uses medical terms throughout his writings, whereas no other writer uses such terms with equal frequency. To pay no attention to these things and claim that every word is inspired is usually called ________________ or mechanical inspiration.

VI. The final concept of inspiration, and one that is held by most evangelicals today is called plenary verbal. The term means that the Scriptures are wholly and equally inspired. The Holy Spirit guarded the writings of those who wrote the Scriptures, but allowed them to write in their own personalities and styles of writing. Plenary verbal inspiration allows for statements in Scripture which are not true, such as John 7:52 and John 9:31.

The Scriptures contain an accurate account of statements made that may not have been true as in the above situations.

This concept is called ___________ ___________ because ________________________________ .

It allows for what aspects of humanness?




How can the nature of Scripture impact my life uniquely? What effect can Scripture have on a life because of its unique nature?

It is the very living Word of God. It transforms lives.

Questions for Review and Discussion

1. What are some of the current errors in thinking concerning the Scriptures?

2. A mystical approach to words from God abounds. What are some of the ways this approach is seen in our society today?

3. What things are unique about the writing of the Scriptures?

4. What is the meaning of the word “inspiration?’

5. Review the external evidence for inspiration of Scripture, and write then in your own words.

6. What is the meaning of “canonicity,” “canon,” etc.?

Summary and Key Concepts

This has been a session that stresses the uniqueness of the Scriptures as opposed to all other writings — sacred or secular. By Scripture is meant the Bible, which stands with a solitary uniqueness among all the writings in literature anywhere in the world.

The Scripture is “God-breathed” which is the meaning of the word “inspiration.” This session has been for the purpose of acquainting you with the method of inspiration held by evangelicals in most places in the world. Other types of inspiration are discussed and illustrated. It is important to know that plenary verbal inspiration is generally held as the type of biblical inspiration which has brought man the Scriptures. This allows for the personalities of men to be involved, but guards the transmission of the words so that we will have the message God desired us to have. It also allows for correct rendering of statements men made that were not true. In some places in Scripture, therefore, there are some statements that are not true — statements made by men and recorded accurately as they were stated.

Life Application

Learn each point of the external evidences of inspiration well, using a pencil to illustrate each argument for the uniqueness of Scripture. Break a single pencil. That is relatively easy. Then put seven pencils each representing a uniqueness of Scripture together and see how much harder they are to break as a group or pencils. Share this with someone and continue to do this until you are effective and know each point or argument well.

Related Topics: Discipleship

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