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Theology 101 (Lesson 2)
What is the Bible? | 2 Timothy 3:14-17
“All Scripture is God-breathed.”
—2 Timothy 3:16
The Bible, which means "book" in Greek (biblos), is a collection of sixty-six separate books divided into the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament contains thirty-nine individual books that include history, poetry, wisdom literature, and prophetic writings, written from 1,400 BC to around 400 BC. The New Testament, written entirely in the first century AD, contains twenty-seven books that include historical narratives, personal letters, and an apocalyptic vision.
The question arises whether such an old collection of writings can be relevant today.
The answer is that while cultures change, the human condition remains the same, making the Bible as relevant today as when it was originally written—the authoritative guide for what to believe and think and how to live in the modern world.
In 2 Timothy 3:14–17, Paul writes to Timothy, making a staggering claim that all Scripture is God-breathed.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The concept of human agency in authorship is described by the apostle Peter, who says that no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
When Peter says, “carried along,” he does not mean the authors wrote in a trance, but that they were internally and supernaturally influenced, being led to write using their own personalities and vocabularies and from within their own cultural contexts.
This affirms that not only are the parts of the Bible inspired, but every single word in Scripture is "breathed out" from God.1
The Bible tells an epic story of creation, rebellion, redemption, and restoration.
The first act is creation, where God designs a beautiful world and fills it with a myriad of creatures, giving mankind the privilege and responsibility to cultivate and manage this world as God's unique representative.
The second act is rebellion, which theologians call "the fall," where Adam and Eve willfully defy the word of the Lord by eating from the one tree that had been forbidden, committing what R.C. Sproul is famous for describing as "cosmic treason."
The third act is redemption, where God reveals and fulfills his plan to atone for sin, reconciling sinners back into fellowship with himself through Jesus Christ, leading to personal, cultural, and social renewal and restoration.
The fourth and final act is consummation, where believers are resurrected unto eternal joy in the presence of God on a new earth where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
This narrative of grace invites us to find our place in the story.
The question is whether we have experienced redemption. Walking in the light, being honest about our rebellion and need for redemption, is the way to receive mercy and be covered by Jesus's blood.
The Bible is not a self-help book, but rather shows us our need for a Deliverer to set us free from our bondage to sin.
When we receive Jesus as our Savior-King who delivers us from the eternal consequences of sin, we experience a renewed desire to have our hearts, minds, and lives shaped by the truth and authority of his word as the Holy Spirit indwells us and guides us like a lamp in the night.2
Describe how the Bible is not just one book, but a collection of many books.
Why is the Bible relevant and authoritative today despite being written so long ago?
What is the significance of the claim that all Scripture is God-breathed?
How does the narrative of creation, rebellion, redemption, and restoration provide a framework for understanding the Bible's message?
In what ways does the Bible challenge us to acknowledge our own rebellion and need for redemption, and how can we find mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ?
Explain why the Bible is not a self-help book or a book of virtues.
How does the Holy Spirit guide and shape us through the truth and authority of the Bible? In other words, how is the Bible a lamp in the darkness?
Dear Father in heaven,
Thank you for giving us the Bible as a revelation of your truth and grace to us in Jesus.
While we confess our need for mercy, we also confess and believe upon the blood of Jesus, which was shed for the complete forgiveness of our sins.
Guide us according to your word by your Holy Spirit, illuminating the truth and giving us grace to walk in your ways, for your glory and our joy.
For we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.
We call this in theology, “verbal, plenary inspiration.”
The Bible as the word of God is trustworthy and authoritative. The autographs are the original manuscripts written by the prophets and apostles, and the autographic text is that which we can discern through comparing the thousands of manuscript copies through manuscript analysis. Although there are errors in the copies, we can go back through the centuries to find where the copies line up, showing us—with 99.5% accuracy—the actual text of the original manuscripts. We affirm that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.