The history of the Bible is a long story, filled with many characters and unlikely happenings. The book’s origins, evolution, and preservation through the ages is a magnificent tale of God’s grace and sovereignty, and it concerns all mankind – from the highest kings to the lowliest servants. The details of how it was written and has survived through the centuries is found in later posts. For now, let’s start at the very beginning of the story – with God Himself.
The History Of The Bible Starts With Its Author
When we study the history of the Bible, we have to begin before the opening words of its first chapter, before secular records of its existence, and before the Church’s traditions of how it came to be. We must start with its Author, the God of the Universe.
Through different means, of which the Bible is one, God Almighty has revealed Himself to us.
As we get to know Him in comparison to ourselves, this fact should stagger us more and more.
We as human beings are both finite and fallen. We are limited by time, physicality, and knowledge. Beyond that, we are broken by sin.
In and of ourselves there is only so much we can attain or accomplish, and we can never live up to even our own moral standards.
In contrast, God is infinite – unbound by time, space, or any other limitation. He is also Spirit; we cannot see Him. We could never discover the truth about God by our human devices. He bridged the differences between us, knowing that we could never on our own enter into His world.
And God has done just that. The fact that He has made great efforts to communicate Himself to us shows us that He is not just some cold and distant god. No, He is a God who wants us to know Him. He is a God who wants relationship with man.
He is, as we will come to see through the history of the Bible and the message it contains, a God who stops at nothing to save us and invite us to come back into relationship with Him.
God’s Revelation To Man
God has revealed Himself to mankind in different ways at different times of history to different groups of people. He has spoken to us all through the witness of creation. He spoke to His chosen nation of Israel through judges, prophets, and kings. He has historically visited certain people in dreams and visions, and during the life of Christ He revealed Himself through His Son. And slowly through the years He compiled His holy Word so that all the earth could have a record of His thoughts and a clear message of truth.
He has never revealed all that He could – we do not have a complete revelation of God and His plan. However, God has always revealed enough of Himself that His people can know how to live in fellowship with Him and according to His will. In whatever age and fashion God has spoken, the purpose of His communication has primarily been to pull us out of darkness and offer us redemption from sin.
General Revelation vs. Specific Revelation
In order to accomplish this, God has communicated both generally and specifically. In our Bibliology class here at Ethnos 360 Bible Institute (which explores the history of the Bible much more in depth!), Professor Scot Keen gives us great definitions for each. He says this about general revelation:
“We call this aspect of revelation general because it does not reveal specifics about God, but generalities. From creation one can recognize that there is a God, but cannot discern His moral characteristics.”
Its true; when we look around we can figure out that there is a creative God, and He has made the world as a witness to Himself. But we cannot know about Christ and the plan of salvation just by observing nature. Our conscience is another form of general revelation. God has hardwired each of us to have a sense of right and wrong. Through this revelation we can see our sinful hearts, but this revelation is limited, because our consciences may condemn us, but they cannot save us. Creation and our inner conscience are only part of what God has to say.
Specific revelation, on the other hand, gives us deeper insight into God and his thoughts. Professor Keen defines specific revelation as:
“God’s specific communication to certain men thought history intended for the benefit of all. Specific/special because God directly revealed specific information to mankind through supernatural means.”
The Bible: God’s Compiled Revelation
The Bible is God’s specific revelation that has been compiled over many years and through the pens of many different human writers. It gathers up the history of God’s dealings with His people, His character and attributes, His plan for redeeming mankind, and most importantly, it introduces us to Christ, the ultimate expression of God Himself. God has seen fit to preserve His Word through the centuries so that His truth is available to us. This revelation from Him is His most direct communication to us and is His authoritative voice. We can put all our hope in its message and stake our lives on its claims.
The history of the Bible is a big subject, but it starts with the God who speaks to us.
The revelation of God to man is a phenomenon of grace. It is the God who lives in purity and light reaching into a world where men stumble and fall in the darkness. If we are going to undertake to truly understand the Bible, we must start with this foundation.
Anna Wishart is a graduate of Ethnos360 Bible Institute, and continues to seek ways to be involved with missions through writing. She currently lives in Winchester, Virginia, and enjoys biking, art, friends, the mountain views, and serving at Fellowship Bible Church.