By Dr. Herbert Samworth
In the first article of this series, we sought to answer the question regarding the question of how we can know the Bible is the Word of God. In this article we will attempt to show the evidence that the Bible speaks of itself regarding this question.
The question deals with our belief that the Bible is the Word of God. In others words, we have faith that the Scriptures are the Word of God. It is important that we understand the nature of faith. Faith is always based on evidence and is directed toward an object. In theological terms we say that faith is always extraspective or outside of ourselves. We do not have faith in our faith but in the ground of faith that is always outside of ourselves. The ground of faith that the Scriptures are the Word of God is the evidence or testimony that the Bible gives about itself. So the question really resolves itself into this: does the Bible contain evidence or testimony that it is the Word of God? Or putting it yet another way, how does the Bible view itself?
We can begin with the Old Testament. It is important to keep in mind that the Bible or the revelation of Scripture was not given as a single unit. There is good evidence to believe that the Old Testament Scriptures were written over a period of nearly one thousand years. In the Old Testament books, it is common to read such words as the “Word of the Lord” came to an individual. We note this in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets. There was a consciousness that the words they were writing, albeit in human language, were the Words of God Himself.
In the book of Joshua, after the death of Moses, God commanded him to follow the book of the Law. He was not to depart from it but to mediate on it day and night. Note Joshua 1:8. By so doing, he was to have good success. This is a direct statement that the Law of God or the Book of the Law, as written by Moses, was to be the guide of the people of Israel because it was divine in its nature.
In the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi written about the year four hundred years before the birth of Christ, we find the admonition to God’s people that they were to remember the Law of Moses. See Malachi 4:4. In the following two verses, Malachi 4:5, 6, there was also a promise that God would send the Prophet Elijah before the great day of the Lord. However, before the time he appeared, God’s people were to be guided by the Law of God. There is the implicit command that the Law of God would be authoritative and obedience was due to it because it was the Word of God.
In the New Testament we find additional proof of this divine origin of the Scriptures. At the time of the Lord’s ministry, all the books of what we call the Old Testament had been written and collected into a single book. They were called the oracles of God, the sacred writings, or Scripture. One of the things we note about the use of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers is that they quote its passages extensively to show the completion of various prophesies or to explain certain events. For example in Matthew 1:18-25 when the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream about the birth of Jesus, he told him to call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins. As a means of authenticating this claim, the angel quoted from Isaiah 7:14, a prophecy regarding the virgin birth of our Lord.
In Mark 1 when the writer spoke of the ministry of John the Baptist he quoted from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. In addition after Paul explained the doctrine of justification by faith as found in Romans 3:21-31, he immediately gave the historical account of Abraham’s justification as recorded by Moses in Genesis 15:6. If the account of Abraham’s justification were not accurate, then Paul’s entire explanation of justification and what it means to us would be completely overthrown. In other words, the writers of the New Testament books believed that the events recorded in the Old Testament were true and accurate. If it were possible to prove that the events recorded in the Old Testament were not true, then what Paul wrote in the New Testament also would be false. We find that Paul used the same argument in Galatians 3:6 where he quoted Genesis 15:6 that gave the account of Abraham’s justification before God.
In summary, the New Testament writers noted an organic connection between what we would call the Old Testament and their writings contained in the New Testament. The Old Testament contained certain prophecies and promises that were completed during the time of the New Testament. Thus the writers of the New Testament books correctly interpreted those events in light of the Old Testament accuracy and authority.
There is another form of testimony that the New Testament gave of the Old Testament as the Word of God. This occurred when the New Testament writers interchanged God and Scriptures as the source of what they wrote. For example, in Galatians 3:8 we read in the words of Paul, “And the scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” This is again a quotation of Genesis 15:6 but note that Paul attributed to Scripture certain things. Scripture foresaw the justification of the heathen and the Scripture preached before the Gospel unto Abraham. Now when we note the passage in Genesis 15, to which Paul made reference, we read that it was God Who foresaw the justification of the Gentiles and God Who preached the Gospel to Abraham. There was such identity in Paul’s understanding of the relationship between God and the Scripture, that he attributed to Scripture what God Himself did and spoke. We find the same identification or interchange in Romans 9:17 where Paul wrote the words, “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh…” However, when we locate these words in the Old Testament as found in Exodus 9:16, we read that it was God Himself Who spoke these words to Pharaoh through Moses.
In other passages, we find the reverse of what is noted above. An example is found in Acts 4:25 where the apostles, after being released by the Jewish authorities, went to their own company to relate what had taken place. They praised the Lord and acknowledged that God, through David, had foretold of the opposition they would face. This is recorded in Psalm 2, a psalm, ascribed to David although no author is given, that spoke of the rulers of the earth joining together in opposition to the Lord. Although David was the human author, the apostles believed that the true source of the statement was God Himself. God was considered to be the author although David was the human author. Thus there is the implicit belief that what had been written before in the Scriptures was indeed the Word of God.
Unless Paul and the other authors of the New Testament truly believed that the Old Testament was the Word of God, they could not have attributed such statements about them. It is because the writers of the New Testament had such an organic view of both their writings and the Old Testament, that they believed both were the Word of God. The wittings of the New Testament were the fulfillment of what had been written in the Old Testament and the Old Testament contained the prophecies of what would be completed in the future. Thus the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are one complete book and both are the Word of the living God.