“All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
What a powerful expression by the apostle Paul on the excelling value of the Bible! He was, of course, referring specifically to that part of the Bible available to him at the time—the writings that people sometimes refer to as the Old Testament. But in principle his words apply with equal force to all of the Bible’s 66 books, including those written by Jesus’ faithful disciples in the first century C.E.
Do you esteem the Bible as highly as Paul did? Do you think that the writers of the Bible really were inspired by God? First-century Christians did. That belief never wavered during the ensuing centuries. Fourteenth-century English cleric John Wycliffe, for example, viewed the Bible as “the infallible rule of truth.” The New Bible Dictionary,commenting on Paul’s words quoted above, states that divine “inspiration, therefore, guarantees the truth of all that the Bible asserts.”
Changing Attitudes Toward the Bible
In recent times, however, confidence in the authority of the Bible has waned. “In theory,” says the handbook The World’s Religions, “all Christians [still] accept the Bible as authoritative, both in guiding their actions and in forming their beliefs.” In practice, however, that is simply no longer true. Many people now view the Bible as no more than “unreliable human tradition.” Though acknowledging that the Bible writers were men of great spirituality, they see those writers as no more than fallible men who struggled to explain deep spiritual truths but who lacked the knowledge and enlightenment we have today.
In truth, very few people nowadays really let the Bible guide their thoughts and actions. How often, for example, do you hear people say that the Bible’s standards of morality are simply old-fashioned and impractical? Many feel free to water down the Bible’s laws and principles—or even to ignore them completely when it seems expedient to do so. Some who call themselves Christians blatantly ignore what the Bible says about fornication, adultery, dishonesty, and drunkenness.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
Why is this so? Early in the 20th century, one reason was identified by archaeologist Sir Charles Marston in his book The Bible Is True. People, he said, were too quick to “accept without a murmur many of the speculations of modern writers” who attacked the integrity of the Bible. Could that still be true today? How should you view the opinions and theories of scholars who undermine confidence in the Bible?
The Bible Really Is God’s Inspired Word
What exactly did the apostle Paul mean when he said that the Bible is “inspired of God”? (2 Timothy 3:16) Paul, writing in the Greek language, used a word that literally means “God-breathed.” By that, Paul meant that God by means of his holy spirit guided the Bible writers to write only what He wanted them to write.
These Bible writers “spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit,” said the apostle Peter. (2 Peter 1:21) Hence, the apostle Paul could also describe the books of the Bible as “holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 3:15.
Many people strongly dispute that God is the author of the Bible. Critics—often with what archaeologist Sir Charles Marston described as a “contemptuous disregard of the Bible narrative”—have made virulent attacks on the Bible’s integrity. Some dismiss it as being no more than “an old collection of myths and fairy-tales.”
Consider the Evidence
So can the Bible be trusted? It is important that you decide correctly on this matter. Why? Because if the Bible does contain communication from God himself, it would be foolish—if not fatal—to ignore it. The extent to which you let it be a real influence in guiding your actions and forming your beliefs will be greatly diminished if you view it simply as the words of men rather than the Word of God.—1 Thessalonians 2:13.
How can you decide? Well, how do you decide whether to trust people you meet? One thing is sure. It is very difficult to have real trust in anyone about whom you know very little. Only as you get to know people well do you learn over time if they are truly honest and trustworthy. You can get to know the Bible in the same way. Do not accept without question speculative or even prejudiced theories that undermine confidence in the Bible. Take the time to consider the evidence that supports the Bible’s claim to be “inspired of God.”
Attacks From “Friends”
Do not be put off by the fact that even some who describe themselves as “friends” of the Bible attack its authenticity and reliability. Today, most Bible commentators, although claiming to be Christian, “will only speak of Scripture as a human record,” says the New Dictionary of Theology.
Many theologians challenge the authorship of the books of the Bible. Some say, for example, that the prophet Isaiah did not write the book of Isaiah. This Bible book, they say, was written long after Isaiah’s time. The Concise Bible Commentary, by Lowther Clarke, contends that it is “the product of many minds and many generations.” But such assertions ignore that Jesus Christ and his disciples repeatedly credit Isaiah with writing this book.—Matthew 3:3; 15:7; Luke 4:17; John 12:38-41; Romans 9:27, 29.
Even worse, critics of the Bible, such as commentator J. R. Dummelow, say that the prophecies found in the book of Daniel “are really past history thrown by the author into the guise of ancient prediction.” Once again, in saying so, they ignore the testimony of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus warned of what he called “the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place.” (Matthew 24:15) Is it reasonable for a Christian to believe that Jesus Christ himself would have been party to deception—that he would have supported history disguised as prophecy? Surely not.
Does It Make Any Difference?
“But does it really make any difference who wrote the books of the Bible?” you might ask. Yes, it makes a huge difference. What weight would you give to a document that purported to be the last will and testament of a friend if it turned out that he had not, in fact, written it? Suppose experts told you that it was a forgery—that well-meaning associates had written down what they believed were the wishes of your friend. Would that not devalue the document? Could you have real confidence that it truly conveyed the wishes of your friend?
It is the same with the Bible. No wonder so many people—even those who profess to be Christian—feel free to ignore what it says on subjects like honesty, sexual morality, and so forth. How often have you heard people disparagingly say things like, “Oh, but that is in the Old Testament!”—as if that means it is of little real value. And this despite the fact that the apostle Paul described the so-called Old Testament as “the holy writings” that were “inspired of God.”
“Surely you cannot simply disregard the evidence of all experts and scholars,” you may protest. Of course not! We are indebted, for example, to honest scholarship that has helped us to identify the original text of the Bible. Clearly, minor mistakes did creep into the text of the Bible as it was copied and recopied over the centuries. Remember, though: There is a big difference between recognizing that minor mistakes crept into copies of the Bible text and dismissing the whole Bible as a human fabrication.
Maintain Faith in “the Holy Writings”
Just prior to saying that the Bible was inspired by God, Paul told Timothy why such an inspired record was essential. “In the last days,” he said, “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13) Already in Paul’s day, seemingly ‘wise and intellectual men’ were using “persuasive arguments” to delude people and weaken their faith in Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19;Colossians 2:4, 8) As a protection from their influence, the apostle Paul urged Timothy to ‘continue in the things that he had learned from infancy through the holy writings’ provided by God.—2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
It is equally important for you to do that during these “last days.” Do not underestimate the danger of being misled by what are often very “persuasive arguments” presented by very clever people. Rather, like the first-century Christians, protect yourself by completely relying on what you learn from the pages of the Bible—truly the inspired Word of God.
Build faith in the Bible, arm yourself with logic, reason and common sense, study in truth, see how Bible principles have proved to be absolutely dependable throughout history, how the Bible is in agreement with science when it touches on scientific matters; how it is entirely harmonious from beginning to end; how its prophecies have unerringly come true and much, much more.