Sunday, January 13, 2019

Scripture: Inspiration and Preservation, Part 5

This will be the final posting in a series on the issue of the inspiration and preservation of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15). We have so far defined revelation as a disclosure of information that could not have been known otherwise. Also, the two types of revelation which include general and special, and inspiration. Last time, we looked at proofs of its inspiration and preservation such as what the Bible says of itself, its indestructibility, its transmission, fulfilled prophecy, scientific accuracy, history, and the lives that have been transformed because of it. 

Today, we are going to look at inerrancy and canonization. The word inerrant means “without error.” Packer and Oden say that it means that the “Scripture in it’s entirely is free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. However, that can mean different things to different people.  Some hold to absolute inerrancy, which means that the Bible is absolutely true in all areas that it addresses in the areas of science and history. Others hold to full inerrancy, which means that the Bible is completely true, but it is not “given primarily to scientific and historical data.” Another view is referred to as limited inerrancy, which means that the Bible is only inerrant in issues of salvation and not necessarily facts in any other area. And still others view that the Bible is only inerrant in purpose.

Why is this issue so important? Does the whole of Christianity rest on how many “stalls for horses” King Solomon really had (I Kings 4:26 and 2 Chronicles 9:25)? “The argument is simply: (1) the Bible is the Word of God; (2) God cannot err; (3) therefore the Bible (which is the Word of God) cannot err. That means that the Bible is factually accurate and correct in what it affirms.” 

However, does that only apply to the original autographs that we no longer have? Or does it also extend down to the copies of those autographs? Well, there is no doubt that there are indeed grammatical errors in the manuscripts we have today. It is believed that these variations occurred as the “result of handwritten scribal errors in the course of making copies and were not part of the originally inspired autographs themselves.”  Furthermore, of the nearly 5,700 New Testament manuscripts that we have today, they can be reconstructed with over a 99 percent accuracy.  Therefore, it must be concluded that the issue of inerrancy applies only to the originals and not the copies. 

Finally, we come to canonization. A canon is a measuring rod, rule or standard. In reference to the Bible, the Canon refers to those books that have been measured and found worthy to be a part of the Bible. It is essentially viewed in two stages: what has been determined by God and what has been recognized by Man. In regards to canonization, it was God who decided what would be in the Canon of Scripture. Harold Willmington puts it this way, “The Bible is not an authorized collection of books, but rather a collection of authorized books.

A few things to consider are that the Old Testament as we know it today was compiled by the Jewish people under the providential oversight of God. It was firmly established well before Christ. Of course, no doubt God was involved in this process. However, our Lord further confirmed it by quoting from or alluding to every book in the Old Testament Canon with the possible exception of 

Some have looked at Luke 11:51 as verification of this when Jesus said, “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' To understand this statement more clearly, one must understand that the Hebrew Bible starts with Genesis and ends with 2 Chronicles.  In Genesis 4:8 we see the blood of Abel when it says, “And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” And in 2 Chronicles 24:21 we see the blood of Zechariah when it says, “So they conspired against him (Zechariah) and at the command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD.” This served to affirm that Jesus believed everything in between.

In regards to our New Testament, it was essentially decided by several factors. These included: authorship, local church acceptance, church father’s recognition, subject matter, and personal edification. However, James Sawyer warns evangelicals to not simply rely on “unexamined theological assumptions and historical inaccuracies” when it comes to their acceptance of the canonization of the New Testament.  His challenge is for evangelicals to not downplay the “witness of the Spirit” for assurance instead of relying so heavily only on historical arguments. In other words, the Holy Spirit played a large role in the accumulation of the inspired manuscripts and He is fully responsible for them and not the schemes of man. In regards to the finalization of the Canon, most will agree that the Old Testament Canon was closed by the year 300 B.C. and the New Testament was closed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.

In conclusion, we have seen how God has throughout the centuries preserved His Word in such a way that we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we do indeed hold the very Words of God in our hands. Henry H. Halley once wrote, “Apart from any theory of inspiration; or any theory of how the Bible books came to their present form; or how much the text may have suffered in transmission at the hands of editors and copyists…it bears on its face the stamp of its Author; that it is in a unique and distinctive sense THE WORD OF GOD.

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