Chapter OneDISCUSSION ONE
Where Did the Bible
When you go to the bookstore and head over to the
religion section, you will undoubtedly find Bibles-lots
of Bibles. The assortment of translations and sheer
volume of choices may overwhelm you.
Believers claim that the Bible is God's book-or at
a minimum, an important book about God. In light of
such an audacious claim, one of the first questions
raised is, "Where did the Bible come from?" We know
it didn't drop down from heaven complete with
leather cover and gilded pages. In fact, it didn't drop
down from heaven at all, even as a rough draft. People
wrote it. Human beings like you and me. Who were
these people? Why did they write? When did they
write it? And how do we know they were right about
what they wrote?
Sometimes people will buy a Bible for a friend, and
that person, out of curiosity, starts reading. Imagine
you are someone who knows almost nothing about
the Bible. What would be your first reaction as you
perused its pages? Would you be able to make heads
or tails out of it? What features would surprise you-or
One of the first things that would stand out is the
human quality of the writings. If you were expecting
the Bible to be the Word of God, you would probably
be expecting the words of God-maybe something
like a transcription of God's sermons. There should be
commandments, pronouncements, even judgments-all
with quotation marks as something God said to
Yet the first words of the Bible are, "In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth." God is
spoken of in the third person. These are the words of
a man saying what God did, not God saying what he
did. This is true for most of the Bible; the writers seem
to record their own words and commentary mixed in
with direct quotes from God.
There are many more questions you might have.
Are we supposed to believe that the people who wrote
the Bible should be taken literally? And when they do
quote God, did he say something out loud that they
could hear? If so, how did they know it was God talking
and not a demon? If it wasn't an audible voice but
only an impression in their minds, how did they know
it was God and not their subconscious? Why should
we believe their inner impressions of what God supposedly
said any more than our own?
Then we must ask, how did these writings come
together in one volume? Who did the picking and
choosing? What if they overlooked some book that
God wanted included? What if they included something
with errors? What if this whole business of a
book from God is just presumption-a mere human
asserting he knows for sure what God said? The origin
of this supposed book from God raises many
tough questions. Get ready for some lively discussion!
OPEN FOR DISCUSSION
1. What do you remember hearing or believing
about the Bible as you were growing up? Were
you an "easy sell" or did you tend to be
skeptical about its contents?
2. What nagging doubts about the Bible do you
have now? If the sessions in this guide could
answer one question for you, what would
Imagine for a minute that you were God and you wanted to
communicate with humankind through a book. Wouldn't the
simplest thing be to get someone to take down your words-a
prophet or scribe of some kind-and then have that person
publish your collected sayings? To many people, that seems
to make the most sense. When those folks open the Bible for
the first time, that's what they expect to find.
Yet the Bible is surprisingly not like that at all. It is full of history,
told from the point of view of those who experienced it. It
contains, of all things, genealogies-lists of names of who
begat whom-and various other seemingly irrelevant details.
True, there are places where a prophet speaks for God, and
those words are recorded with the characteristic "Thus says
the Lord," but particulars of the prophet's life and experiences
are also written down.
When we come to the part of the Bible that's about Jesus,
we have not only a record of his words but also a record of the
words of those he talked to (even his enemies), as well as
accounts of his deeds. Clearly, the Gospels are more than just
quotes from Jesus. The letters that make up a third of the New
Testament are the words of men such as the apostle Paul or
Peter, leaders who are trying to encourage and teach the
people in the churches with which they've worked. So while
there are the "sayings of God" in the Bible, there are apparently
many "sayings of men," too.
3. Do you think there's any value in having more
than just "dictated pronouncements from
God" in the Bible? Explain. When the biblical
writers include details about themselves or
others, how does this enhance what God
supposedly said and did in their lives?
Who Wrote the Bible?
The Bible is not just one book-it is a collection of dozens of
books. Yet all these writings taken together speak with unity
and proclaim unmistakably, "People matter to God!"
It was written over a period of fourteen hundred years.
It was written over a span of forty generations.
It was written by over forty authors from all walks of life
(kings, peasants, philosophers, poets, fishermen, statesmen, scholars, doctors, businessmen, etc.).
It was written on three continents (Asia, Africa, Europe), in many different places (dungeons, palaces, while traveling, the wilderness, etc.).
It was written during a variety of moods (sorrow, joy, anger, excitement, tranquillity).
It was written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek).
4. What might be the disadvantages of having so
many authors put together a book? How
might this process add value to the end result?
What Makes These Writings So Special?
None of the biblical writers claimed to be anything other than
mortal men, yet they insisted they were God's instruments.
They believed they wrote accurate history, preserved accurate
eyewitness accounts, had accurate revelations from God, and
made accurate predictions about the future.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things
that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed
down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and
servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully
investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good
also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent
Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things
you have been taught.
Accurate Eyewitness Accounts
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you
about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we
were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and
glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the
Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I
am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from
heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
-2 Peter 1:16-18
Accurate Revelation from God
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture
came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For
prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke
from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
-2 Peter 1:20-21
Accurate Predictions About the Future
I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced
them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they
came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were Therefore
I told you these things long ago; before they happened I
announced them to you so that you could not say, "My idols
did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them."
You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not
admit them? -Isaiah 48:3-6
5. It's one thing to say God is speaking through
you, and another thing to substantiate it. What
kind of validation would need to be provided
by someone who claims to be giving us
Who Picked the Books to
Be Included and Why?
The Old Testament books were accepted by a group of Jewish
scholars in the city of Jamnia in A.D. 90, though the books
they ratified were widely circulated before then. The Old Testament,
originally written in Hebrew, had been translated into
Greek around the third century B.C. because Greek was the
more common language spoken. In Jesus' day the Old Testament
was referred to as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings
(or more commonly just the Law and the Prophets). This
designation referred to the same books that are in our Old Testament
Jesus repeatedly validated the Old Testament as a whole:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the
Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them"
(Matthew 5:17). He even seemed to indicate the beginning and
end points of the Old Testament by referring to an event in Genesis
and then another in 2 Chronicles (Matthew 23:35)-the
first and last books according to the Hebrew order. He considered
these the "bookends" of divine Jewish revelation.
The New Testament books were all written before the end
of the first century and were widely circulated as individual
books for several centuries. The first list of all the New Testament
books together as we find them in our Bibles today was
written in A.D. 367 by Athanasius. Other partial lists existed
before then, but his list and the Councils of Hippo (A.D. 393) and
Carthage (A.D. 397 and 419) formalized the New Testament as
it's come down to us today.
6. What safeguards are inherent in a centuries-long
process of confirming the books of the
7. If someone came today and said they had a
book of truth that should be included in the
Bible, what criteria would you use for
evaluating their claim?
Evaluating a Prophet
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were given ways to
test a prophet. Any person who claimed he was speaking truth
from God had to be evaluated. If the person failed either of the
following qualifications, he and his message were to be disregarded.
The first qualification was whether the prophet's message
contained absolutely accurate predictions.
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a
message has not been spoken by the Lord?" If what a prophet
proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come
true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet
has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
The second qualification was whether the prophet's message
contained absolutely accurate theology.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears
among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes
place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have
not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to
the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is
testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart
and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
8. Even if a modern-day psychic had a ninety
percent accuracy rate, would he or she pass
the first test above? How would this test rate
a prophet like Joseph Smith of the Latter-day
Saints (Mormons), who made several prophecies
that never came true-even though he
made some that did?
9. What would the second test, of theological
accuracy, do to many who claim prophetic
messages today and even appear to have
miraculous powers, yet teach unbiblical
HEART OF THE MATTER
10. What is troublesome to you about believing
that the Bible is the sole written authority from
God and that it is superior to all other
11. What would it take for you to place complete
confidence in the Bible as truth from God and
as the supreme written guide for your life?
CHARTING YOUR JOURNEY
With this session you're beginning a journey. Keep in
mind that you do not need to feel pressured to "say the
right thing" at any point during these discussions.
You're taking the time to do this work because you're
looking for answers and because you're willing to be
honest about your doubts and uncertainties. Others in
your group would also benefit from hearing about what
you'll be learning. So use these sessions profitably-ask
the tough questions, think "outside the box," and learn
from what others in your group have to say. But stay
authentic about where you are in your journey.
To help you identify your progress more clearly,
throughout this guide you will have opportunities to
indicate where you are in your spiritual journey. As you
gain more spiritual insights, you may find yourself reconsidering
your opinions from session to session. The
important thing is for you to be completely truthful
about what you believe-or don't believe-right now.
12. Pick the statement(s) that best summarizes
your view. What reasons do you have for your
____ The Bible has no relevance for me.
____ The Bible is an interesting religious book, but it is a mixture of human truth and
____ The Bible is no different from other
writings that claim to come from God.
____ The Bible has a lot of wisdom, but that
doesn't mean it's God's Word.
____ The Bible contains God's truths, yet not
everything in it is from God.
____ The Bible-all of it-is God's Word
through the words of men.
____ Other: ________________________________