A gracEmail subscriber writes: “We consider the Bible to be the infallible word of God, based largely on the idea that the authors were directly inspired by God. How do we know that they are inspired writings? Why were these books chosen?”
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The divine authority of the Bible is a subject of faith which cannot be proven scientifically or mathematically. The covenant people of God, first the Jews and then the followers of Jesus as well, gradually collected the foundational writings which we call the Bible for themselves and their posterity. These sacred writings served both as a trustworthy record of God’s dealings with them and as an exposition of the meaning and implications of those mighty acts of God. In the case of the Hebrew Bible which we Christians call the Old Testament, the 39 books included were believed to have come from the great Hebrew prophets beginning with Moses and going through the time of Malachi. Jesus endorsed these writings as being God’s word, which also commends them to his followers.
In the case of the 27 Christian books we call the New Testament, the writings finally included carried the authority of the Apostles of Jesus Christ — Matthew, John, and Peter (and his student/secretary Mark) from the original Twelve, and the later-named Apostles Paul (and his students — Luke, and probably the author of Hebrews) and James (and his brother Jude). These books were chosen because of their authors’ links to Jesus Christ himself, because they bore special witness to Christ and because they were recognized throughout the Christian Church as speaking with authority and with power. The Hebrew Bible came first, then Jesus, the gospel and the Church — only later the Bible containing our 66 books.
Paul says that all Scripture is “God-breathed” or “inspired” — which means that it is enlivened by God who once breathed life into Adam so that he became a living being (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul was writing about the Hebrew Scriptures but Christians came to view the “apostolic” writings in the same way (2 Pet. 3:15-16). In more recent centuries, various Christians have used such words as “infallible” and “inerrant” to further describe what they understood about the nature and authority of Scripture. Most importantly we should remember that Scripture is not an end within itself but that it leads us to Jesus Christ who in turn leads us to his Father in heaven (John 5:39-40).