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Thy Word Is Truth

by Walter Martin

an article from the Letter From The Founder column of the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 6: Number 1, 1993.

The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.

What do we mean when we say, "the Bible is the Word of God?" It is obvious that we are asserting that the Bible is a revelation from God -- that it does not just illumine our thinking but reveals to our minds things which God knows and which we are incapable of learning apart from His communication with us.

Now, it is true that the Bible contains quotations from men (Acts 17:28), angels (Matt. 1:20), demons (Mark 5:9), Satan (Job 1:9), and God Himself (Exod. 20:1ff.). However, the Bible is called the Word of God because the whole transcript is an inspired, faithful, and infallible record of what God determined essential for us to know about Himself, the cosmos in which we live, our spiritual allies and adversaries, and our fellow man.

The Bible, then, was produced by men whose recording of events was divinely supervised and preserved from all the frailties of human error and judgment which are so common in all other religious literature.

How could such faithful recording come about? By what method could God bring such a thing to pass? Such questions can be answered simply by pointing out an illustration from the late Donald Grey Barnhouse. Dr. Barnhouse maintained that even as the Holy Spirit came upon the womb of the Virgin Mary and, despite her sinful nature, imperfections, and limitations, produced sinless and perfect humanity for Christ in the Incarnation, so He moved upon the minds and spirits of the recorders of Scripture such that, despite limitations in language, culture, and even scientific knowledge, He produced His perfect message to humankind. Both phenomena were miraculous; both were perfect births -- one of the Son of Man and the other of a Book, the Word of God.

When we speak of the inspiration of the Scriptures, then, we are talking about the process that God used to convey His message. This process is described by the apostle Paul as a type of spiritual "breathing" (2 Tim. 3:16; cf. 2 Pet. 1:21). In fact, the Greek word for "inspiration" (theopneustos) literally means "God-breathed."

The inspiration of the Bible and the concepts just mentioned refer only to the initial "breathing" of God upon the authors of Scripture to produce a copy of His thoughts for man. It is for this original text of Scripture, revealed by God and faithfully recorded by His servants, that the Christian church claims infallibility.

Through the centuries God has preserved literally thousands of copies and fragments of these initial manuscripts with only minor, insignificant transmissional mistakes made by scribes over the years. Historic Christianity affirms the plenary or "full" inspiration of the Bible, and it further holds that inspired concepts can be communicated only by inspired words. Thus, the church's belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible is logically inseparable from the doctrine of plenary inspiration.

To illustrate, the label on all RCA records at one time contained a picture of a dog listening to an old Victrola with the caption, "His Master's Voice." Dr. Eugene Nida of the translation department of the American Bible Society has pointed out that the dog listening to the Victrola will hear an imperfect transmission of his master's voice because the needle scratches the surface of the record. However, no matter how scratchy the record sounds, the needle cannot obliterate the sound of the master's voice -- the message still comes through loud and clear.

Expanding on this concept a little more, we can see that the Bible is represented by the record and that the imperfections of human nature and the limitations of human knowledge are represented by the needle. The passage of time is represented by the turntable. Just as any record becomes scratchy in time through wear, so is this true (though in a much lesser degree) with the copies of Scripture. But despite these limitations (which are the direct product of human freedom and its resultant sin), we can still hear our Master's voice with absolute clarity, just as the dog does on the record label. The "scratches" in the copies of Scripture -- which, I might add, are exceedingly minimal -- do not prevent God from clearly communicating His message to humankind.

We might also note that the "scratches" are being "erased" as time goes on by archeology, by older and better texts, and by scientific discoveries. More of the "original" is thus being "dubbed" back into the already-very-accurate copies, so that year by year we are getting closer to the "master tape" from which all the duplicates (copies of manuscripts) were recorded. Thus the accuracy of our Bible copies increases rather than decreases with time.

Because of advancing knowledge about the Bible and its times, great gains have been made in solving problems which a hundred years ago were considered by some reputable scholars to be "insoluble." Thus it would be foolish indeed to abandon faith in the authority of God's initial revelation simply because there remains a relatively small percentage (less than 1/2 of 1 percent in the New Testament) of questionable material in the copies about which we do not yet have enough data to properly evaluate. Contemporary disciples of those who gave up their faith in the absolute authority of Scripture a hundred years ago would do well to remember that advancing knowledge confirms rather than diminishes the accuracy of the Bible.

End of document, CRN0062A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Thy Word Is Truth" release A, July 15, 1994 R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.

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