The Inspiration and Preservation of Scripture

by George P. Estes
Sentry Magazine, December 1999

That Scripture is the word of God is accepted by all who believe in God and in Jesus. This includes the sixty-six books we call the Bible. ln this age, some nineteen hundred years from the apostles of Christ, we need proof of what we have. And this proof must be convincing to assure us that what we have is God's word.

One proof is that all who wrote Scripture were inspired by the Holy Spirit. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Timothy 3: 16). This means the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In II Peter 2:21 is the reading, "No prophecy ever came by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." This includes all the prophets of the Old Testament. Moses was a prophet. He wrote, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thy brethren, like unto me." (Deuteronomy 18:15). AII of the other prophets spoke and wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament were also inspired. The apostle Paul has "us" in his statement about inspiration, which would include all of the apostles and those associated with the apostles, such as Mark and Luke. The apostle wrote, "But as it is written, Eye has not seen, neither have entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all, yea, the deep things of God ... which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches" (I Corinthians 2:9-10,13).

A second reason for accepting Scripture as God's word is its unity and harmony. Different men, in different times and places, wrote Scripture. It began with Moses and ended with the apostle John. The time is about sixteen hundred years. Yet when all of the sixty-six books and letters are brought together, we have one book. The reason for the agreement is the subject matter. Scripture is about man's sin and God's plan for his forgiveness in Jesus our Savior. The Old Testament is the unfolding of God's plan and the New Testament is the fulfillment of it. Each book and letter has its required place in the whole book. There is complete agreement in Scripture and it does not contradict itself. Man is not able to think of and set forth a plan of salvation like that is Scripture. Indeed, some people are offended at the gospel plan of salvation. The apostle Paul wrote about the Jews, "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, it pleased God by the foolishness of proclaiming the gospel, to save those who believe. For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom" (I Corinthians 1:20-22)

The Scripture is proved to be God's word by how the subject matter is stated. All of Scripture is in brief, concise statements. If the subject matter had been left to men, it would be in lengthy description and in many styles. But Scripture is written in the same way, whether we read in Genesis or in Matthew.

Evidence for the text of the New Testament is found in quotations in the writings of the Fathers. The Fathers, according to historians, are those men who knew the apostles or who quoted from them and copied verses from their writing. They were defenders of Christianity and of Scripture. The quotations are from these men of the first seven centuries. The ones noted here are those who knew the apostles.

  • Clement of Rome died about 100 A.D. He wrote a letter to the Corinthian congregation. The date assigned to it is 95 AD. In it, he quotes often from the Old Testament as well as from the writings of the apostles.
  • Ignatius of Antioch is another of these. He was taken to Rome and became a martyr under the emperor Trajan in 107 AD. On the way to Rome, he wrote seven letters to acquaintances and to congregations.
  • And finally, Polycarp born in 59 A.D was acquainted with the apostle John. He wrote an epistle to the Philippians in which he quotes Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, I Peter, and ten of Paul's epistles, all of which he regarded as genuine. He died in 155 A.D.. [See H.S. Miller, General Biblical Introduction, pp. 257-265].

For the preservation of the inspired writings and to separate them from writings that were being circulated, a canon was established. "Canon" is from the Greek language and means a rule, a standard, a measuring rod. The rules set forth were:

  • Did an apostle write it or one associated with the apostles?
  • Was the writing read and used by congregations and accepted by them?
  • Was it recognized and accepted by those who followed the apostles (i.e. the Fathers)?
  • Was the doctrine and content of the writing in agreement with the other inspired and accepted writings?
  • And finally, is there the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the writing? Or was the writer inspired by the Holy Spirit?

The canon was given in 397 A.D. and the writings tested by it. Thus we have the canonical books and the uncanonical books or writings. This brought together the sixty-six books we have today and preserved them. [See H.S. Miller, General Biblical Introduction, pp.140-141 and Peloubet Bible Dictionary, pg. 10V).


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