Followers of Jesus believe there is no other book like the Bible. Rather than being something that people developed, it came from God. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” is the way that Peter puts it (2 Pet. 1:21). And Paul writes that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Divine and Human
Those verses provide us with two important ideas about the Bible. One is that it is based on divine authority. The prophets or writers of the Bible did not speak on their own authority, but only as God gave them a message and helped them to write it out. Thus the Bible originates with God, and that is why we call it the word of God.
But the Bible also has a human aspect. That is, even though the message of the Bible is God’s message, it is expressed in human terms and concepts, and the various Bible books clearly reflect the diverse personalities and the historical, cultural, and theological contexts of their authors.
We must recognize, then, that the Bible has both divine and human aspects. On the one hand, such an understanding excludes the idea that Scripture expresses nothing more than human ideas. To the contrary, the message came from God Himself, even though it is expressed in human words and through human personalities.
On the other hand, an understanding of the relationship of the human and divine in the inspiration of the Bible helps us avoid concepts that suggest a mechanical transcription of the Bible. Thus we realize that God didn’t dictate the Bible in a word-for-word sort of way. Rather, He provided the Bible writers with a specific message and gave them each the freedom to express that message in their own way, all the while guiding them in their writing so that it was completely His message that was being communicated rather than the ideas of the human writers. It is that process that helps us understand why we have four Gospels or books on the life of Jesus. All four writers were writing about the same Jesus, but each tells the story in his own way. As a result, the presentations by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each reflect not only the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus, but also the personalities, interests, and historical and theological contexts of each human author. Thus, the word of God is expressed through the words of humans.
The Unity of the Bible
The overall guidance of God in the development of the Bible is most easily seen in its thematic unity. The various books were written over a period of more than 1,500 years by dozens of different authors using their own literary styles of both prose and poetry. Those authors wrote from a variety of personal and historical situations. Yet through all that time and variety, the Bible gives the same message from Genesis to Revelation. There is a unity to the message in the Bible that is a witness to the divine Person who was behind its inspiration from start to finish.
Why We Have the Bible
But why, we need to ask, did God give the Bible to us? The answer is simple. He wanted us to know Him. While it is true that we can get a general view of the power of a Creator God by observing the natural world (Rom. 1:20), that general view makes us want a much more detailed and specific understanding. Thus, to enable us to understand who He is and find hope in what often seems to be a hopeless world, God has revealed Himself to men and women in the words and word pictures of the Bible. But He went further than that. He sent Jesus Christ to help us understand, since Jesus is the exact image of God’s Person (Heb. 1:3). Thus there is a sense in which Jesus Christ is the “Word” (John 1:1). That makes the written word in the Bible a reflection or commentary on Jesus, with the Old Testament pointing forward to Him and the New Testament featuring His life and ministry. Jesus Christ is the center of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. He is the Word, God’s revelation of Himself made human.
The Apostle Paul is quite explicit as to why God inspired the Scriptures. First, he says that the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). Beyond that, “Scripture … is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (vv. 16–17). In other words, the Bible reveals to us the way of salvation, both before and after we accept it. As the psalmist puts it, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
Knowing what the Bible is, and how and why it was written, helps us understand what an indescribably great gift God has given us. It is an indispensable guide for all humanity in the journey through this life, with an invitation to an eternal life with our Creator.