When we approach the Bible, our first question is usually, What does it say? Now that’s a good question. But we need to ask another question first: What is the Bible?
This is a big question, so we’ll break it into three separate questions:
- Who wrote the Bible?
- How does the Bible come to us?
- What is the Bible centrally about?
In this article, we will focus on answering the first question. [In chapter 1 of Christ from Beginning to End we explore the other two questions.] Then in chapters 2–4 of our book, we will explore how to read the Bible in light of the answers to these questions.
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
We will summarize the Bible’s authorship this way: the Bible is the triune God’s speech written through the agency of human authors. Let’s unpack both parts of this statement.
From beginning to end, the Bible claims to be God’s own speech or word in written format, and it makes this claim in a variety of ways. From the Bible’s opening chapter, we meet God as a speaking God. One thing is definitely true about him: he speaks truth and he is faithful to his word. Reflecting on this, the psalmist writes, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps. 33:6). God speaks in such a way that, when he says it, it happens. Things come into existence!
But God also speaks words for us to read (see Psalm 19:7-11). Though he doesn’t say it directly here, the writer of Psalm 19 wants us to see that the Bible’s nature is tied to God’s nature. The Bible is the law, testimony, and precepts of the Lord. His perfection, his purity, his truthfulness, and his inestimable worth are reflected in what he says.
We rightly say that the Bible is inspired. But what does that mean, exactly? The use of this word is often unclear because of the varied meanings of it in English. Biblically, the word inspiration in reference to the Bible is best understood to mean “breathed out” (from the Greek word theopneustos). This is evident because the word for inspiration is used in
- 2 Timothy 3:16, where it emphasizes God’s unique initiative and action in communicating to us in Scripture.
- Timothy 3:16 says this: “All Scripture is God-breathed.”
To say that God breathed out Scripture means that all of it comes from him: the Bible is God’s own speech. This means that if we are to read Scripture on its own terms, we must read it as a divine book, a book authored by the triune Lord. We see this in the way Jesus, the divine Son, used the Scriptures in his own ministry. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament with authority (Matt. 4:4) because what it said, God said (Matt. 19:3–6). In this way, the Bible attests to its own divine authorship.
But while it is true to say that the Bible is God’s speech, it’s also God’s Word, written through the agency of human authors. The Bible’s human authorship is plain as well. Its authors name themselves and write about themselves. Their unique personalities and personal histories are evident throughout. For example, Luke writes as an educated doctor, Paul writes as a lifelong student of theology, and Peter writes as a fisherman.
God did not dictate Scripture to these men. He sovereignly and supernaturally “breathed out” his words by acting through the human authors over time (Heb. 1:1–2). Theologians call this phenomenon dual authorship. It simply means that the Bible is simultaneously God’s speech through the writings of human authors.
How do we summarize the relationship between the divine and human authors? Two biblical texts are crucial in answering this question: 2 Peter 1:21 ESV; 2 Tim. 3:16–17.
In the first text, Peter reminds us that the Bible’s authors did not speak on their own. As they spoke, the Spirit supernaturally “carried” them along. As they freely wrote, God sovereignly worked so that what they wrote was what he wanted written. In the second text, Paul emphasizes that the text they wrote—Scripture— was God-breathed. Taking these passages together we can say that whatever the human authors of Scripture wrote is what God wanted written. “What the Bible says, God says,” is a helpful way of summarizing what Scripture is. Scripture speaks with full authority and without error.
If we read the Bible on its own terms, its self-testimony is clear: Scripture is God’s authoritative speech through the writings of human authors.
— Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum, Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ.
How to Use This Book
Readers of Christ from Beginning to End will become more competent in reading the Bible for themselves. “It’s hard to imagine a more reliable guide to understanding the Bible for new believers, church members, and small group leaders,” writes author Christopher W. Morgan.
The authors add, “If you belong to Christ already, we pray you’ll know him all the better, love his church more, and spread his gospel farther. If Christ is not your only hope in life and in death, we pray that he will become all of that for you by faith. That’s a lot to ask, but it’s not too much for our gracious Lord to grant.”
What people are saying:
“What if you could take the lifelong learning of a seminary professor and have it translated by the preaching ministry of a former student turned pastor so that everyone in the church can apply it? That’s what you hold in your hands. Think of it as the best class you never got to take.” —Justin Taylor
“This book is simple, but not simplistic, and it is accessible to those who are reading the Bible for the first time and helpful for those who have read the Bible their entire lives.” —Thomas R. Schreiner
Christ from Beginning to End
How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ
Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum