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Is the Bible the Word of God?
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Is the Bible the Word of God?

Yes! No! Yes!

The question whether the Bible is the Word of God sits on a very slippery slope and if we say "no" now, we'll probably get booted off every Christian search engine.

We regularly use the phrase "Word of God" for the Bible, and there's nothing wrong with that. After all, God speaks to people through the Bible most clearly; the Bible is a word, and the Bible certainly comes from God, so the answer is yes.

Yet God also speaks through other texts (see below), or buildings (the tabernacle, for instance) or nature (Romans 1:20) or people that otherwise talk nothing but nonsense (Balaam, Numbers 22 to 24). The Bible is the word of God—the word from God and the word about God, as opposed to the word of or about someone else.

In the Bible itself, however, the phrase Word Of God (in Hebrew: Dabar YHWH) is reserved solely for a Person of the triune Godhead, namely the One who became flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1). That Person first shows up in Genesis 15:1, where He comes to Abraham to tell him about His plan for the world, and to indicate that He will be a human some day.

The Bible, on the other hand, is a compilation of books, not a Person. Jesus saves people, but the Bible doesn't. You can learn the whole Bible by heart and still not be saved. You can pray to the Bible and thus blatantly violate the First Commandment. You can love the Bible, but the Bible won't love you back.

It's a bit like the difference between New York City and New York State. If you're standing on Times Square and a daft tourist asks you if we're in New York or not, you can wholeheartedly affirm. If you happen to be in Albany, however, you might tell the tourist, "Yes! No! Yes!"

Quotes from and references to all kinds of secular and apocryphal books that have found their way into the Holy Texts of the Bible (taken from our article on 2 Timothy 3:16; is all Scripture is God-breathed?):

  • Epimenides, a poet and Jovian priest is quoted in Titus 1:12
  • The story of Jannes and Jambres is a non-surviving ancient legend referred to by Paul (2 Timothy 3:8).
  • The Books of Enoch are works of legend and fabrication created over the ages and based on the single, enigmatic note in Genesis 5:24 that Enoch walked with God and was taken by God. Paul seems to tap into more than the Torah reveals (Hebrews 11:5) and Jude actually quotes 1 Enoch 1:9 in his verse 14.
  • Aratus, who was, like Paul, from Tarsus (or a neighboring town) wrote, "for we are also his offspring; the offspring of Jove." Similar expressions are found in the Jovian works of Cleanthes, who taught at Athens, and even Homer. Paul, preaching in Athens and tapping into the worship of the Unknown God, hijacks the hymn devoted to Jupiter and applies it to the Creator (Acts 17:28, "...as even some of your own poets have said...")
  • The Corinthian Letter prior to First Corinthians, was a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth, to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 5:9. This Very First Letter to the Corinthians is lost.
  • The Complete Works of Solomon, contained 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. Only a fraction of these works made it into the canon (1 Kings 4:32).
  • The Book of the Wars of YHWH, a work of which no trace remains except for the quote in Numbers 21:14-15.
  • The Book of Jashar is said to report the miraculous behavior of the sun and moon during Joshua's battle with the Amorites. The book is referenced as an argument that it really happened. The same book is noted to contain David's Song of the Bow (2 Samuel 1:18).
  • The Book of Acts of Solomon is listed as a reference, and maybe even a source, in 1 Kings 11:41.
  • The Book of the Matters of the Days of the Kings of Israel is pointed at all over Kings and Chronicles. (1 Kings 14:19).
  • The Book of the Matters of the Days of the Kings of Judah is pointed at all over Kings and Chronicles. (1 Kings 14:29).
  • The book of Nathan the Prophet; a non-surviving work mentioned in canon with the Book of Samuel (1 Chronicles 29:29). The Book of Nathan is also said to contain acts of Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:29).
  • The Book of Gad the Seer; a non-surviving work mentioned in canon with the Book of Samuel (1 Chronicles 29:29)
  • The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite; mentioned along the Book of Nathan (1 Chronicles 9:29).
  • The Visions of Iddo the Seer; mentioned along the Book of Nathan (1 Chronicles 9:29).
  • The Records of Shemaiah the Prophet; said to contain all acts of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15).
  • The Records of Iddo the Seer; said to contain all acts of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15).
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