Is the Bible Really the Word of God?
Committed Christians always refer to the Bible as “the word of God.” By “Bible” of course they mean that particular version endorsed by their own denomination. This simplistic view not only under-rates the intelligence of all those who wrote, compiled and translated the Bible, but of God Himself.
One of my Pentecostal pastors often declared that footnotes containing variant readings were not written by God, because God could not speak with a forked tongue. To take but one of many thousands of such examples, my pastor would claim the number of the Beast in “Revelation” 13:18 is most definitely 666, and could not possibly be 616, as some manuscripts and translations indicate.
Why not? Was the Bible written exclusively for the simple-minded who are unable to form their own judgments? And is it not possible that many words and phrases were deliberately chosen because they have two or three meanings? In any case, do we not all have access to the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and Truth?
The traditional no-frills Bible also contains material of limited value (such as Second Peter), while omitting—in most Protestant versions—two of the most essential books, namely Wisdom and Ben Sirach. Without the instruction provided in these two books, it is difficult (though not impossible) to know and appreciate the Holy Spirit, let alone to gain access to Her. (And of course it puts Pentecostal churches in the very odd position of trying to instruct people in the nature and rewards of the Holy Spirit without using the two Biblical text books God has provided for that very purpose).
In my view, it is correct to say that the Bible “contains” the word of God. The problem is: which are God’s words, which are the words of men, and which have no place in the Bible at all?
It is the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and Truth who will help us in this regard. She will instruct us. I have complete Faith in Her. And Faith is a wonderful thing.
As for John’s “Good News”, is it inspired by the Holy Spirit? Is it the word of God? Most definitely. It really doesn’t matter whether the words were written down by John, the Beloved Disciple, or John, the Elder. It really doesn’t matter whether both betray their own humanity, their own feelings, their own personalities from time to time. What matters is that the Good News tells that God so loved the world that He gave us His Only Son; and that everyone who believes in the Son will not perish but gain eternal life (3:16).
Everyone knows this verse. It’s probably the most quoted verse in the whole Bible. But there is another, echoing a favorite theme of St Paul, that is almost as important. Jesus is addressing His disciples. “No longer will I regard you—and order you about—as slavish servants,” He says, “because the slave has no intimate knowledge of his Lord, nor does he understand or appreciate His actions. But you, I will now call friends.” (John 15:15).
That’s what God really wants: friends, not slaves or servants. God can create millions of angels to automatically carry out His wishes. But friends? That’s a different proposition altogether. Because we must choose Him. And choose Him freely, not through any compulsion to do so, other than love and gratitude.
God invites all of us. Every single one of us! But we are all so self-centered, comparatively few respond to His invitation. And most of these few are content to remain as slaves and servants. But wonder of wonders and absolutely astonishing as it may seem, God, the Father, Jesus, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit want us to be Their friends!