What Is Scripture? Theological Giants Weigh In
What is Scripture? The good news is that we are not the first to try to answer this question. In fact, 2,000 years of Christian history provide us a tradition of helpful answers.
Trustworthy and Authoritative
The Bible is inspired by God and does not misrepresent the facts. It is entirely trustworthy and is the final authority in everything it teaches. The Bible records the drama of redemption in both the history of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians we acknowledge both Jesus (John 1:1-4) and Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) as the “Word of God.” Christians should not focus solely on Christ and treat Scripture just like any other “classic text.” Nor should we focus so much on the Bible as God’s divine inerrant word and treat Jesus as simply a character in a small part of the texts.
Scripture Reveals Jesus
Jesus is the message—God participating in human life, coming near to us, bringing his good news, expressing God’s love for us, dying as our substitute, rising as the victor over death, and building his church as a community of grace. Jesus is not just the main person in one of many events in the story of God’s people. Jesus is the final revelation of God’s drama of redemption. Humanity sees God in full light in Jesus. Jesus is God’s ultimate word about human life and the Bible is God’s word about God’s self-revelation through human life. This is what Christian theologians have been saying in various ways for 2,000 years (Christian Theologies of Scripture). In answering the question—“What is Scripture?”—Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, and Edwards have given us categories to use, concepts to ponder, and doctrines of Scripture that we should continue. As we survey some of the major theologians in Christian history in the next series of posts, notice how much they refer to Jesus when explaining their theology of Scripture. Their doctrines of Scripture are surprisingly Christ-centered.
For more study about Scripture—what is it and how we got it—check out these books:
- F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture. This book explains how the books of the Bible came to be recognized as Scripture and what criteria influenced these decisions.
- Herman N. Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures. This book investigates the authority of the New Testament Scriptures.
- Justin S. Holcomb, ed., Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction. This book traces what the theological giants in the Christian tradition have taught about Scripture from the early days until today. You can read the introduction online for free.
- D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition: A Primer for Suspicious Evangelicals. Williams’ book is the best study on the Christian use of Scripture and the Church’s tradition.
- Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible. Lightfoot answers important questions about the Bible: How old are the biblical manuscripts? Why are there so many different translations? How has the Bible been preserved and transmitted to us?
- Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. This book discusses the central message and overall story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and explains how the Old Testament and New Testament fit together.
To be continued.