The Unity of the Bible and Divine Inspiration

Star Wars is one of my favorite epic stories, and I’m always excited to see a new movie come out for this series. Although the first six Star Wars films aren’t perfect, George Lucas wrote each one, so the overall story they tell fits together nicely. J. J. Abrams and his writers (Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) did a good job of continuing the story in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I thought the series was going to come to a great conclusion with the last three movies.

But this all changed with Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In my opinion, The Last Jedi introduces too many plot holes and other problems for the story. One of the biggest problems (to me) is how the movie handled Luke Skywalker and seemingly changed his personality from a never-say-never optimism from The Return of the Jedi to an indifferent pessimism in The Last JediThere are many more problems, but without venting about The Last Jedi any further, my point is that the overall plot of Star Wars has been damaged by this latest film. So, despite all of the money and talent put into making the Star Wars films, the consistency of the story didn’t survive longer than forty years; and all of this happened with under ten writers.

So, It seems that the more writers and the longer a story lasts, the more chances there are to ruin its consistency. Yet, this is not found in the story in the Bible. If you have read my posts on the overall plot of the Bible, then you should know that the biblical epic stays consistent from Genesis to Revelation. The plot is set in Genesis, and it unfolds and is amplified throughout the Bible. What you might not know is that the Bible wasn’t written all at once by only one human author. In this blog post, I am going to discuss the authorship and dating for the various books of the Bible and argue that this is evidence for divine inspiration.1

The Diversity of the Biblical Authors

While almost everyone in Western countries has heard of the Bible, some people do not realize that the Bible is a collection of many different ancient writings. The Bible is one book itself but contains sixty-six books that were written by around forty authors during a period of over 1,500 years (from 1400 B.C. to around 90 A.D.). Most of the authors of the Bible did not know each other and came from various educational and ethnic backgrounds. For example, some of the authors were princes, kings, physicians, and even shepherds and fishermen. The books of the Bible were written in three different languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; and the Bible includes various literary styles including history, poetry, allegory, parables, apocalyptic, and many others.

The Unity of the Bible

With such a long period of time for the authorship of the Bible, and with so many different authors with so many differences, it would seem that the biblical narrative would quickly get filled with inconsistencies. However, as shown in my previous posts, the opposite is found. Instead, there is one overarching, consistent plot with various themes that amplify the story.

First, the overall plot is consistent throughout the Bible. The plot is established in the Old Testament in Gen. 1-3 where God gives Adam and Eve a mission and tells them that one of Eve’s descendants will crush the head of the serpent and remove the curses from the Fall. From there, the narrative unfolds as humans are repeatedly shown to be incapable of completing their mission. The plot culminates in the New Testament when God sends Jesus Christ to complete the mission given to humanity and to keep His promise to Adam and Eve by sending a Messiah.

Second, the various themes of the Bible stay consistent and supplement and amplify the overall plot of the Bible. The themes of creation, covenant, God’s presence, and seed conflict (and others) are found throughout the Old and New Testaments and never contradict one another. The theme of covenant is especially complicated but unfolds throughout the narrative giving readers more and more information as to how the promises made to humanity will be fulfilled by God.

Third, as emphasized by Dr. Norman Geisler, the Bible has one unified message, which is that human beings are sinful and in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ. As ugly as the story gets in the Bible and as hard as some of the stories are to read, the theme of redemption is always found somewhere in the narrative. The Bible is clear that humans have never and will never get their act together, and they cannot save themselves. The promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the only way to solve the sin problem that has plagued humanity from the beginning.

The Inspiration of the Bible

The unity of the Bible’s story is something I believe is overlooked too often today. Too many people, including Christians, neglect the Bible and don’t realize how amazing its story is. As mentioned, I believe the diversity of the Bible’s authors and the unity of the Bible’s story is evidence that the Bible was inspired by God.

The point is that it seems impossible for forty or so authors over 1,500 years to write a story as cohesive as is found in the Bible. If it only took forty years for less than ten authors to jumble the plot of Star Wars, then it seems incredible that forty ancient authors of various educational backgrounds could stay consistent over 1,500 years. Such a feat seems humanly impossible and points to the Bible being inspired by one source—God.

Several objections have been made against this argument for the inspiration of the Bible.2 One objection is the unity of the Bible is not that incredible given that each biblical author was aware of the works of preceding authors. However, while many authors were aware of the works of preceding biblical authors, not all had access to those works while they were writing/compiling their specific books. For example, regarding the Old Testament, Ezekiel wrote while in the Babylonian Exile, and Esther wrote from a foreign land. Many of the New Testament authors were writing their books and letters from different places at similar times. For example, the book of Hebrews was written in the East; John wrote his writings in Asia Minor; and Paul’s works originated from Rome.

Even if each author had access to the other authors’ works, many of the authors were writing historically and were simply retelling events that already happened. Many biblical events have been confirmed through archaeology, and many will likely be confirmed in the future.3 If the authors were simply making their stories up to fit a planned meta-narrative, their stories would have been proven wrong by now and/or would never had been accepted as canonical in the first place.

Another objection to this argument entails divine inspiration being explained away because it is possible that only those books that fit together were accepted into the growing canon of the Bible. As the objection goes, maybe the story goes together because the various books would have been rejected had they not fit together. However, this objection overlooks the process in which biblical books were canonized over the years.4 This is a complex subject, and there are many books written that give a good overview of the process of biblical canonization, but history shows that the books of the Bible were accepted by the Jews (Old Testament) and the Christian Church (New Testament) as they were written. The canon of the Bible was not decided hundreds of years after the books of the Bible were written. It is a misconception that Church councils, like the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., decided which books of the Bible are canonical. Church councils such as the Council of Nicea merely made official affirmations of the already existing canon; they did not create the canon out of thin air.

Regardless, even if all the authors were aware of each other’s writings and were trying to create the story found in the Bible, we would have to believe that all forty of them were literary masterminds capable of planning and producing such an impressive project in a timespan of over 1,500 years. For example, Dr. Geisler argues,

…one would have to assume (contrary to fact) that every author of Scripture was an incredible literary genius who saw both the broader unity and “plan” of Scripture and just how his piece was to play a part in it so that the unforeseen end would come out even though he could not foresee it himself.5

The consistency, complexity, and depth of the story and message of the Bible seems to make this conclusion impossible. I agree with Dr. Geisler in that

It is simply easier to posit a single, superintending Mind behind the whole thing, who devised the plot and the plan and how it would unfold and eventuate from the beginning (Isa. 46:10).6

One last point I would like to make is that there have been numerous theories over the years about how the books of the Bible weren’t produced by the traditional authors and the books of the Bible are riddled with errors. For example, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) created his famous Documentary Hypothesis in which he argues that the first five books of the Bible are not the product of Moses and were compiled by several redactors for religious and political reasons. Also, more recently, Bible scholar Bart Ehrman has argued that the New Testament gospels are unreliable, and we can’t be certain whether what they report is what actually happened. I find these theories interesting in light of the overall plot found in the Bible. These various theories always conclude that the Bible is merely the product of errant, biased, and messy human beings. Yet these theories only make the case for divine inspiration even stronger because they undermine the idea that the biblical authors conspired and were competent enough to create the finished product of the Bible we have today. If the authors of the Bible were writing for selfish and political reasons, then they failed miserably.

Conclusion

As salty as I am with Rian Johnson for what he did to Star Wars, it doesn’t bother me as much as it might have before I became a fan of the Bible. The biblical narrative is complete and tells a beautiful, consistent story of creation, fall, and redemption. Not only is the story epic, deep, and exciting, it also includes me and you. It tells us where humanity comes from and where humanity is going. The biblical canon is complete and can’t be ruined by some future author who has ideas of his own about how the story should go. The message is hard to take at first (that humanity can’t save itself), but the ending is the best of all endings (Jesus has saved humanity and will right all wrongs).

With such unity, it is amazing to find that the story was written by so many authors over so many years. If the highest paid professionals in today’s entertainment industry aren’t able to keep a story straight, then it seems highly unlikely that a group of unrelated kings, prophets, and fishermen could. I think it is obvious that the Bible is inspired by God, but at the very least, it is reasonable to believe so.

This post concludes my longer, foundational posts. In the future, as I have said before, I am planning on writing (hopefully shorter) posts on biblical events and characters and how they fit into the plot of the Bible. Also, be on the lookout for various apologetic posts like this one and for posts on theology.

For visual learners, here are two videos created by Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins of The Bible Project that touch on the background and unity of the Bible; the first video gives an overview of the Bible and its history, and the second video discusses the main plot of the Bible:


Footnotes

  1. The founder of my seminary, Dr. Norman L. Geisler, recently passed away. Dr. Geisler was a master at explaining and defending the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. In this post, I am using one of my favorite arguments of his for the inspiration of the Bible, which is in Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2002), 1:555-556.

  2. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 1:556.

  3. Two great books on this subject include Randall Price, Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017); and Joseph M. Holden and Norman Geisler, The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2013).

  4. See Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003); and Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible, Rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012).

  5. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 1:557.

  6. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 1:557.


*The featured image of God’s promise to Abraham after his testing is from The Kingstone Bible, vol. 2, p. 182. Image used with permission: © 2015 Kingstone Comics.

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