The Bible’s Source—God or Man?
Where did the Bible come from? Are its words simply religious lore, written down by people over the centuries? Are they the product of the thoughts and imaginations of men? Or is the Bible the inspired Word of God? Did God write the Bible? Or did men?
Since our faith is based on this book, it’s crucial for us as Christians to know the source of the Bible.
Knowing the source is critical
When we want to find out how reliable something is, we check its source. For example, we definitely want to know where our drinking water comes from. If we know it comes from a pure source, we’re confident we can drink it without harm. Similarly, we trust certain news reports if we believe the reporters are reliable and their facts are checked.
For us to gauge the trustworthiness of something, it helps if we know its source. When we do, we can then determine whether we should disregard it or deem it valuable and reliable. So much depends on its source. The same is true with knowing the source of the Bible.
Where did the Bible come from?
Throughout the ages, many people at different times and from different cultures have written down their thoughts, observations, and philosophies on life. But what about the Bible? Is it merely a collection of the thoughts, observations, and philosophies of pious men about God?
In 2 Peter 1:21, the apostle Peter says:
“For no prophecy was ever borne by the will of man, but men spoke from God while being borne by the Holy Spirit.”
Peter explains that although the Scriptures were written through men, these men spoke from God. The source of the Bible is God, not men.
We can see this when we consider the true and profound words in the Scriptures. Could any fallen person write such words? At times they defy our expectations by providing indescribable comfort or piercing light concerning our inner condition. Even if a person wanted to write something for or about God, all mankind is fallen, and the mind of man is darkened and limited, incapable of writing such words as those found in the Bible.
How did the words of the Bible get to us from God?
Men didn’t speak from themselves, but were used by God to record the words in the Bible. To understand how this could be, we need to look at this phrase: “men spoke from God while being borne by the Holy Spirit.”
Note 2 on 2 Peter 1:21 in the New Testament Recovery Version explains:
“No prophecy was ever borne by the will of man. Man’s will, desire, and wish, with his thought and exposition, were not the source from which any prophecy came; the source was God, by whose Holy Spirit men were borne, as a ship is borne by the wind, to speak out the will, desire, and wish of God.”
If you’ve ever watched a boat sailing on the water, you’ve seen its sails catch the wind. It moves along not by its own power, but by the power of that wind. This picture demonstrates how the Bible came from God. Just as a boat is moved by the wind, certain men were borne, or carried along, by the Holy Spirit. By this Spirit these men could speak or write down the will, desire, and wish of God. This is what we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired by God.
So the words of the Bible didn’t originate from man’s own mind. But how did this “being borne” happen?
The Holy Spirit and the human spirit
It’s important to see that God created human beings not only with a mind but also with an inward part that’s deeper than the mind. The Bible tells us in Zechariah 12:1 that God formed “the spirit of man within him.” This “spirit of man” is our deepest part, and just like the other parts of our being, it has a particular function. Our eyes are for seeing, our ears are for hearing, and our human spirit is for contacting, receiving, and containing God.
John 4:24 says,
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit.”
The Spirit in this verse refers to the divine Spirit, and the spirit refers to the human spirit. With our human spirit, we human beings can worship, fellowship with, and know God, who is Spirit.
So how does this relate to where the Bible came from? As certain men had fellowship with God in their spirit, they were borne, or carried along, by the Holy Spirit to write down not their own words but the words of God. The Scriptures are God’s words, and they are holy because their source is God. They came to us from men who were borne by the Holy Spirit to speak and write words from God.
Why it’s important for us to know the source of the Bible
If we don’t see that God Himself is the source of the Bible, that all Scripture is God-breathed, the foundation of our Christian life will be unsteady and vulnerable. Our faith rests solidly on the Bible. For us to have confidence in this book, we need to be clear that God is the source of the Bible.
In our daily environment, we interact with people who don’t believe in God or value the Bible’s words as being from God. At work, in school, on television, in movies—nearly everywhere we look—we encounter things and people that may make us question the Bible, asking ourselves, “Is the Bible reliable?” “Is everything in the Bible true?” “How do I know the Bible is true?” And when we’re unsure about the Bible, our faith can be shaken.
However, if we’re clear that God is the source of the Bible, we’ll know its words are trustworthy, true, and pure because God is trustworthy, true, and pure. We’ll have confidence in the reliability of the Bible, and our faith will be strengthened by its words. God’s Word can sustain us in all situations, guide us to know God today, and be depended on for all eternity.
Because we know God Himself is the source of the Scriptures, we can trust the Bible wholeheartedly, without reservation or doubt. By trusting in and relying on the Bible, we will come to know God more and more deeply both in this book and in our lives.