When it comes to recognizing the authority or authenticity of the Bible, it is like that of the question of which came first: the chicken or the egg. Did the ancient manuscripts of Scripture, as a record of God’s intent and desire for mankind, by the mere fact of their existence, give them preeminence over our lives? Or did the church that was established in the first century of history look back at those manuscripts and determine their validity?
Let us look at the timeline for part of our answer. In the early days of human history there was some desire to worship. That desire was expressed in the worship of nature and the creation of idols. There were shamans as leaders. They took upon themselves the authority to tell others what was moral or the right way to live. In some cases, they exercised punishment on disbelievers.
A great example of this was Hammurabi’s code. He was one of the earliest and one of the most famous rulers of Babylon. He claimed to have received his laws from the sun god Shamash. In it were written instructions concerning marriage, taxes, property disputes, labor, duty, building, and the worship of gods. This was written on stone and discovered in 1902 by the archaeologist M. J. de Morgan.
Man’s relationship with God or a series of gods became a quandary. How is one to appease an angry God? How is one to enjoy the fellowship of a loving God? How is one to know the right way to live according to God’s standards? How is one to find the ultimate means of knowing and experiencing God?
The documents of ancient history such as the Dead Sea Scrolls shed some light on these questions. They have been recognized as a near match to what is currently known as parts of the Old Testament. Men began to make notations of what it was like to be a servant of God as they experienced spiritual unction. Later, a similar thing happened, only in a more sophisticated fashion, regarding the last 2000 years. The record of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection were noted by four of his acquaintances. Afterwards, the expansion of the Christian faith was documented by a physician named Luke and in what is now called the book of Acts. Subsequently, various letters were written to individuals and groups.
At this point of our discussion, we are merely noting that certain Christian documents existed. In the first 100 years after Christ many of these documents were circulated throughout the world as guidelines for codes of living and how to experience God. Unfortunately, some fraudulent documents surfaced as those proposed to be from God or as historical antidotes to the already recognize stories of religious significance in the Christian faith.
Three things occurred. The people and their experiences were historical. Some false stories circulated. There had to be some decision which were valid, and which needed to be rejected. This was called the Canon of Scripture. In retrospect, we must use another analogy. If you are in your home with the doors and windows closed, and someone told you it was snowing, did the report of your friend cause the snow or did you merely recognize that it snowed by looking outside?
This is the situation to understand the authority of the Bible over our lives. Did it become valid after someone or some group of people said it was? Or was the authority of the Bible already in place and merely recognized by those people? Did it snow or did you recognize it snowed when you look outside?
How can we know the Bible has an experiential authority for our spiritual condition and our future? This is best answered for how the Bible came to be. A view from the big window tells us that there is a common thread throughout the Old and New Testament. That thread consists of prophecy and guidance leading up to the birth of Christ who shed his blood on the cross. Early in the Old Testament the believers sacrificed the blood of animals as part of their religious rituals. Now in retrospect we can see that bloodline pointed toward Christ as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice.
The shedding of blood goes back to the book of Genesis in which God slew animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Immediately thereafter their descendants did the same thing as part of their worship. The book of Job contains documentation of a man who made sacrifices even before there were instructions to do so. This practice was reinforced by the formal giving of the law through Moses. This practice continued until foreign countries overran the Hebrews and took them captive to their lands. The main city of the Hebrews, Jerusalem, was destroyed with the temple.
In the early days of Scripture and of the establishing of the Hebrew nation, these people were told to overrun other nations. It was the practice in ancient times for a conquering nation to sack the city and kill as many people as possible including children. The children may have been innocent of the happenings about them, but they carried with them the seeds of their own people. They were not to grow up and integrate or pollute their bloodline with their conquering nation’s people. This would have resulted in a polluted lineage somewhat like that it occurred within the Samaritans who were part Jewish and part of strange people. They were a potential hazard to the safety and well-being of their conquerors. This was no different than all the other nations. These events cannot be viewed from a modern perspective with modern values. Instead, ancient people should be viewed from ancient times.
Returning to the question of the authority of Scripture, does one say that the authority was innate or that that authority was or was not granted by humans? Did the observers of the snow make it snow or simply report that it did snow? That is best answered by observing how unique the Bible is! With all the various viewpoints and documentation of specific books of the Bible, there is a unity that makes the Bible one book. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. In many cases the authors of these books did not know each other, lived in different time periods, and in different lands. Yet there is a unity of purpose and direction for them all.
We can no more say that the books of the Bible became authentic than we can say Hammurabi’s code is authentic simply by discovering them. The books of the Bible were in place just as much as Hammurabi’s code was in place. Early in the history of the Christian church these books were recognized and then later officially canonized as Scripture, but to canonize them did not call them it into existence. It merely says that these certain texts are the most reliable in comparison to history, external documents, and internal verification in which scriptures complement and explain each other.
It is one thing to say that the Bible is authentic, is God’s word, and authoritative. It Is another thing to ask what it means to me. To ignore its declarations is to ignore the potential for a true relationship with the Almighty God. Where once man’s relationship with God was alienated, it is healed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. That becomes the means or propitiation to reestablish a spiritual connection with God. The resurrection of Jesus is not just an event observed by the church. It is how any person can be assured that by having Jesus as Savior death is not the end. Jesus would merely have been a good person, and a prophet and a healer had he not risen from the grave. Jesus can be anyone’s Savior by asking for God’s forgiveness of sin and verifying that by living a Christian life that is pleasing to God with all its manifestations of a converted life by a godly person. This is not church membership. It is a membership in of the family of God. This is more than a routine prayer requesting God’s forgiveness for certain sins. It is asking God’s help to heal our sinful nature and the propensity to performance sin.
Will you recognize that the Bible has authority over your life? Will you live your life anew under the authority of the Scriptures daily referring to its content, correction, and guidance? In the past you may have considered philosophy, ethics, church doctrine, or even your own opinion for under which authority you would live. Now accept the Bible as your authority to live. F��BFN