The B-I-B-L-E #2
Another shocking discovery of my early life was this: people wrote the Bible.
Real, live people. People who did not have perfect lives or perfect insight into the mind of God. People who wrote in their language, using their own vocabulary and style. Luke’s writing is polished; John’s is more like someone who was trying to connect with the middle schoolers (simpler syntax and vocab).
Now, again, doesn’t this fall into the category of no-brainer? In one sense, yes.
But somehow I’d always thought (based on a misinterpretation of a couple passages and perhaps also on my wild imagination) that the Bible was dropped from heaven. Maybe delivered by the Holy Spirit dressed like a dove.
Several OT writers quoted bits of information they had looked up. Luke said he did his homework before sitting down at the computer. And, almost certainly, Matthew and Luke peeked at Mark’s gospel while writing their own. Jude peeked at 2 Peter. Or vice versa. Or maybe they shared a common source.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he had baptized only Crispus and Gaius. Then he remembered that he’d also baptized the household of Stephanas, so he added that as kind of a footnote. He also told them that on one matter he had no instruction from the Lord, but he gave his own judgment (7:25).
Frankly, not everything in the Bible is quite as smooth as I used to imagine. There are jars and clashes. Was Jesus’ Nazareth sermon early in his ministry (Luke) or much later (Matthew, Mark)? Was Jairus’s daughter dead (Matthew) or nearly dead (Mark — maybe this falls into the Princess Bride’s category of “mostly dead”) when Jairus found Jesus? Did the cursing of the fig tree happen before (Mark) or after (Matthew) Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem? Was it one demon-possessed man (Mark, Luke) or two (Matthew)? And was it at Gerasenes, Gergesenes, or Gadarenes — or are those the same place? For a while I tried forcing explanations so that there were no problems, but I eventually had to admit (with some encouragement from my professors) that this was disingenuous.
And this is just the beginning. Clashes and jars. When we labor under our Western assumptions of HOW THE BIBLE OUGHT TO BE, that’s extremely problematic.
But what if scripture isn’t bound by our assumptions of what it ought to be?
So, were the writers of the Bible guided by God? That’s what I believe by faith. Instructed in some sense by the Holy Spirit? That’s my conviction. Producing authoritative documents that are able to guide the church in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)? Yup.
Do I still have confidence in scripture? I’ll let my years of preaching, teaching, and writing stand as an answer to that question. I have more appreciation for scripture than I used to. More desire to live under its guidance rather than to attempt to conquer it with perfect comprehension. More eagerness to catch what it intends to do: point us to Jesus.
The ultimate goal isn’t to defend the Bible, memorize the Bible, or understand the Bible. The goal is to let scripture point us to Jesus, committing ourselves to him and jumping into the journey of discipleship.