HOME BIBLE STUDY #1 - Biblical Authority, Revelation and Inspiration, and Canon
Introduction - Foundational Principles of Bible Study
God created man in His own image, giving mankind the ability to communicate and reason for the purpose of communing with God. In order to communicate, God established language and the ability for rationale thought. God communicates to us via this same language. The Bible is Gods word to mankind, and is in fact the history of Gods intervention into the affairs of mankind for the purpose of reestablishing communion with himself as originally intended through the process of redemption, which is the primary theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments. If the Bible is Gods word to us, there are some foundational truths that we can discuss which will provide a framework for our study of Gods word. Looking at these principles will be the purpose of study #1.
necessary to understand some of the background of the book in order to correctly understand what it is saying to the people to whom it was written, and how this can be applied to our lives today
some of the questions to be asked include: why was the book written? when? what circumstances surrounded its writing? what questions did it intend to answer? what does it reveal about God or Gods people?
the Bible is different than other books, for it is Gods word to us as revealed by the Holy Spirit
the authority of the Old Testament, which was already cannonized by the time of Jesus, is accepted and testified to by Jesus himself, although Christs interpretation of it avoided the legalism of his Jewish contemporaries. Christ also was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets ie. Luke 4:18-21
the New Testament writers (specifically Matthew and Paul) also accepted scriptural authority and based their writings and faith on Jesus being the fulfillment of what was spoken in the Old Testament
the authority of the New Testament is also testified to by Christ, although in a somewhat prophetic fashion
1 Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:16; Lk. 24:44ff; Jn. 5:39; Mt. 5:17-19
New Testament authority is also verified by its continuing impact on individuals who read it and take it to heart - it is life-changing
Revelation and Inspiration
all of Scripture is Gods revelation to mankind, His desire to be known and to know His people by revealing himself through the use of language and cognitive thought (also through dreams and visions, and ultimately in Christ himself)
God acts and explains his actions both before (prophetic) and after, for the primary purpose of revealing his redemptive purpose. Mankind is to observe, hear, learn and respond to this revelation.
Scripture is special or supernatural revelation (as opposed to general or natural revelation) and is progressive (a little revealed at a time, adding together)
revelation itself is an act of Gods grace, for without it we would never be able to come to a knowledge of God and his redemptive plan
inspiration is Gods work to ensure that the revelation will be transmitted accurately to others, and ultimately inscripturated, hence scripture is God-breathed, even though God uses human agents
revelation was received by a chosen person(s) then transmitted, usually by spoken proclamation, written down by the recipient or scribe or gathered by the writer from various forms, copies of writing transmitted in original language and subsequently in translations, and finally scripture comes to the person who hears or reads the text
inspiration is the work of Gods Spirit, to whatever extent, to ensure that the redemptive purpose of his revelation was made effectually available
the human agent: Scripture reveals the differences in the style of the human agent, the agents style, historical and social setting - the agent does not diminish the message which was inspired by God
in a nutshell: Scripture is the record of revelation in history, the direct witness to it, the prime source from which to study it, and the instrumental means whereby we enter into knowledge of it and find its power. It is divine as well as human witness, dually authored; the prophets sermons (thus saith the Lord!) are a paradigm of all Scripture in this. As Gods instruction it is all his law [torah]. (J.I. Packer)
Clarity and Sufficiency
clarity: Scripture is self-interpreting on essentials. Hence the main message is thus accessible to all. Failure on the part of any Bible-reader to discern and understand the gospel argues spiritual darkness in him rather than in the Scriptures (cf. 2 Cor. 3:12-4:6) This claim is justified by the biblical teachers, esp. Christ (Mt. 9:13, 12:3, 19:4) and Paul (2 Tim. 3:15) and others (cf. Ps. 119:97-104, 130)
sufficiency: Scripture is adequate as a guide to faith and life, needing no supplement from church tradition or speculative reason. We are forbidden to bypass it or subordinate it to some other supposed authority. This claim is warranted based upon the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel (Gal., Col., Heb.).
Canon (lit. rule, standard, or norm)
the canon is the authoritative collection of writing - these are teachings which are binding to the individual
formation: authoritative utterances - documents - collections of writings - fixed canon
Jesus supported the acceptance of the 39 books of the canon of the Old Testament
ultimately canonicity is based upon the testimony of the believing community which heard God speak through the Scripture (note that this is different than saying that the believing community defines what is canonical - the canon is accepted as authoritative because it has been recognized as such by the community)
Homework in Preparation of Bible Study #2
Without using the index in the front of your Bible, page through the entire Bible and try to write down all of the books of the Bible, for example, Genesis is the first book and Revelation is the last. Depending on your translation, you may have different titles for some of the books. Using most available translations you will have a total of 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. If you use the Catholic Bible, you will also have a slightly different divisions in some of the books and a different number of books overall.
Old Testament Books New Testament Books
Should you wish to take extra time, read the first couple of paragraphs, verses, chapters (?) of each of the books to get a feel for its content.