Can You Know Whether or Not the Bible Contains God’s Special Words?

He smiled at me.

“So it sounds like you believe that the Bible is special, somehow. That even though it was written by people, it was inspired by God. That somehow it contains God’s special message to mankind.”

I braced myself for the inevitable onslaught. “Yup. That’s what I believe.”

The onslaught didn’t come. Instead, he asked a simple question. “How do you know, Stuart?”

 

It’s a reasonable enough question. Right? It’s one thing to BELIEVE…it is quite another thing to KNOW. Knowledge claims require solid justification. How do I know that the Bible contains God’s special words?

If Christians believe the Bible to be special revelation…do we know that just because the text claims that it is so? That sounds a bit weak. Do we know because we feel it is true? Well – yes, scripture is properly basic to Christians, but that’s not going to help the sceptic who needs some logical argument supporting our claim about how special the Bible is. Besides, Muslims would say the same thing of the Qu’aran.

 

Jonathan Morrow lays out a non-circular argument to support the claim that the Bible contains God’s special and true words.[1] This argument appeals to the historical reports in the most recent part of the Bible – the New Testament. The argument doesn’t require these scriptural claims to be special in any way…just that they accurately reflect what happened in the past. This is a logical, historical justification of the claim that the Bible is God’s special revelation to mankind.

 

  1. Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be God.

He claimed authority that God alone possesses. For example, control over nature[2],  speaking for God,[3] ability to forgive sin[4] and authority over the final judgement.[5]

He owned special titles from Judaism pointing to his divinity. I’m talking about Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man. All were understood by the original audience as pointers to divinity.

 

  1. God authenticated his radical claims by raising Jesus from the dead.

We know this based on five minimal, historical facts that must be explained when considering the claim that Jesus rose from the dead:

      1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
      2. Jesus’ disciples claimed he rose and appeared to them.
      3. The Christian persecutor Saul was radically changed to chief proclaimer of the Christian faith.
      4. The sceptic James, Jesus’ brother, was also suddenly changed and became a Christian leader.
      5. Jesus’ tomb was found empty.

These facts are typically accepted even by the most sceptical and antagonistic historians.

 

  1. Jesus of Nazareth taught the divine inspiration and the authority of Scripture.

He recognized the Old Testament’s authority:

  • He did not come “to abolish the Law … but to fulfil.”[6]
  • He submitted himself to the moral authority of the Old Testament, often using the words “It is written…”
  • Jesus submitted himself to his God given mission, understanding that he “must suffer many things and be rejected … and be killed, and after three days rise again.”[7]

He provided for the writing of the New Testament:

  • He appointed the apostles himself as ministers of the New Covenant.
  • He promised the Holy Spirit to them, who will “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[8]
  • The apostles recognised they were writing with the authority of Jesus.

 

  1. Since Jesus of Nazareth is Divine, his endorsement of the Bible carries the authority of God.

 

So – why is it reasonable to say that we know the Bible is God’s special revelation?

The answer hinges on the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words:

“if God raised Jesus from the dead, then the most likely reason was to confirm the truthfulness of Jesus’ teachings. If we are correct in this, then the inspiration of Scripture follows as a verified doctrine, affirmed by God Himself when He raised Jesus from the dead.”[9]

 

[1] Jonathan Morrow, Questioning the Bible 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014).

[2] Luke 11:20.

[3] Matthew 7:28-29.

[4] Mark 2:1-12.

[5] Luke 12:8-9.

[6] Matthew 5:17.

[7] Mark 8:31.

[8] John 14:26.

[9] Gary R. Habermas, Jesus and the Inspiration of Scripture, Areopagus Journal 2, no. 1 (2002), 15, quoted in Jonathan Morrow, Questioning the Bible.

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Respond

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

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