The Bible, God's Holy Scriptures

A Summary of Mark Roth's Views Concerning The Bible

How We Got Our Bible, the Word of God

The majority of historic Christianity has believed that human writers wrote the books of the Bible under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament canon as we now have it was apparently established by the year 400 BC.

What about the apocryphal books? The Jews did not recognize them as inspired; the Early Church did not admit them into the New Testament canon. These books were not admitted by those in the best position to pass on their merits. [Even the Roman Catholic Church waited until its Council of Trent (1545) before definitely declaring these books an integral portion of Holy Scripture!]

The major factor governing selection for the NT canon was apostolicity -- the conviction that the books represented the position of the apostolic age. Either Apostles or men who had an extremely close relationship to an Apostle wrote the books of the New Testament. Books that measured up as works of the Apostles were regarded as the very Word of God.

The Early Church gathered the writings that were accepted as the Apostles' from the very beginning. This was no real problem since the church as a whole generally acknowledged the same writings. The writings that were questioned were small in number and then generally questioned only in late times by obviously false teachers and in small local areas. Those at the correct place and time, the recipients of each writing, were in the best position to say where the writings came from. The Holy Spirit guided their decisions.

By the end of the second century, and possibly by AD 100, most Christians had accepted the books of the New Testament as the Word of God. The fixing of the canon was done mainly at the Council of Carthage (387). By the fifth century disputes about what books composed the canon generally ceased.

Facing "Contradictions" in the Bible and Variations in Manuscripts

Are there contradictions in the Scriptures? There seem to be. However, to honestly face the possibility, probabilily or certainty of such contradictions we must ask ourselves some questions:

In light of these considerations we may well take the view point that there are no errors in our Scriptures. Those alleged errors which we cannot explain must have an explanation beyond our knowledge and understanding. Otherwise we are left stumbling in the dark. I don't concern myself with the few "contradictions," choosing instead of focus on the greater-by-far number of clear injunctions.

We don't have the originals. Are our present-day copies trustworthy? Well, would God let His plan of redemption be lost through untrustworthy copies of the Scriptures? If we accept that in our day God reveals His plan of redemption only through the Scriptures, then we must also accept these Scriptures as trustworthy. Otherwise we could not know His plan of redemption.

Despite the painstaking care exercised in copying the Bible books, errors crept in through the centuries, producing variations in the manuscripts. Scholars opine that not a single one vitally affects any basic Christian truth. Though we do not have verbatim copies of the original manuscripts, we can still know the Author's messages to us. We possess today the Bible books essentially as they came from the inspired writers.

Biblical Interpretation

I launch this with a question: "In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5) means which of these?

  1. sex is inherently sinful
  2. the writer was conceived in an immoral encounter
  3. at conception, the writer inherited an Adamic bent to sin
  4. the writer's mother was a sinner, just like anybody else in the world
  5. the writer was suffering from a depressive episode and this belief reflected a distorted sense of self esteem
I do not know its intended meaning. However, by consulting the rest of the Scriptures I can narrow the range of possible answers by eliminating those that are obviously incorrect. Other passages in the Bible would definitely eliminate "1" and likely eliminate "2." Option "5" may or may not make sense in its entirety, but since we cannot prove or disprove its viability as an answer in this case, we are safest to discard it also. That, of course, leaves us with "3" and "4" -- two Biblically viable options.

Here is an interesting response I received to my lead question:

If there's a difference between what the writer originally meant by it, and the way it's taken today by various people for whatever reason, which interpretation do we go with (assuming that it's even possible to know what the writer meant)?
If I were to ask the question, it would be rhetorical, because to me we obviously go by the meaning intended by the author!

However, I think the question seemingly implied in the parentheses is the real question here.

I believe that on key issues, we can indeed know the Author's meaning! How?

When a literal and universal approach makes sense, why seek any other?
Compare Scripture with Scripture.
Through the ages, true Christians have shared the conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and as such is the rule of faith and practice for all believers. In practical terms this means our interpretations and applications of Scripture must be made with the greatest of care and reverence.

In determining how to "balance" the OT and NT, remember that the NT presents a more complete revelation of God and His ways and will. In Jesus, many OT laws and practices find their fulfillment. This explains why in our NT age we do not live by so many OT passages. As much as possible, balance Scripture with Scripture. This does not mean that any one portion of Scripture is imbalanced; it just means that since we cannot see the whole in one single portion, our own views will become unbalanced if we neglect the other pertinent portions of the Word.

Having said that, I believe one statement of truth is enough when it comes from God's Word. What I mean by that is, if God gives us a commandment only once in the Bible, that is enough. We needn't parallel, corraborating passages before we can accept is as a rule to live by.

Who does the interpreting and applying? Individuals are responsible to read the Word for themselves and let it and the Spirit speak to them. However, this process is generally safest when balanced with the views and impressions of the brotherhood of spiritual believers, for the Spirit also speaks through the godly church. I believe God has granted to local congregations the responsibility of making local applications (and in some cases, interpretations) of His Word. This in no way means that any congregation, conference or denomination can decide to discard some portion of the Word. God's Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89); let our decisions fall in line with that! Let us come to the Word with an obedient, searching disposition.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
When we cease to accept the entire Scripture as inspired by God, we lose a powerful reason, motivator and foundation for practical interpretation and application. When the Scriptures thus lose their practicality they of necessity lose their profitability. No wonder the Church's freefall is increasing in speed!


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