God's Method of Communication: Why God Speaks To Us Through Scripture
There are four links in the chain “from God to us” concerning His revelation to man through the Holy Scriptures. These are:
Inspiration – God gives the message to the prophet who receives it and then records it.
Canonization – the message must then be received, recognized, and collected.
Transmission – the collected messages must then be disseminated to present and successive generations by means of preservation, copying, re-copying, and so on.
Translation – the message must then be converted into various languages as it is passed down to future generations and throughout the world by means of translation, re-translation, etc.
The science of textual criticism is used as a means to determine the accuracy of current reproductions in relation to the original or earlier messages.
The Four Stages of Biblical Transmission
Why Write It? Why Not Use Some Other Method?
Why would God choose written language as a means for the communication of His message to us anyway? There are several potential answers for this, but it is best understood by examining some of the options:
God could have made a very personal and physical visit to each and every individual, but this is not only a very inefficient choice for God to make, it is also very presumptive of God's nature and His ultimate will and purpose, not to mention inconvenient and potentially intrusive on the individual. There are many reasons why this method may have been a poor choice in the eyes of God but perhaps it is best answered by asking yourself whether or not you have personally visited each and every individual you chose to communicate with?
God could have sent angels to deliver His messages to each individual, but again, this is not exactly an efficient method of communication, nor is it very practical when dealing with beings (men) who are living in various times. The employment of angels would be much more practical for the delivery of private and individual “special” messages.
God could have used dreams, visions, or divination, but this method leaves His message open to private and subjective interpretation rather than an objective and universal interpretation.
God could have employed the medium of Urim and Thummim, or lots, but these are very limited in scope concerning the content of truth in which they can convey; besides they can only indicate “yes or no” answers.
God could have used an audible voice or a miracle to deliver His message to each and every individual, but again, this method is just as inefficient as the first two and for the same reasons. Such a method used to convey His message to all people and throughout all generations would be much better utilized for the original delivery of the message rather than for its dissemination.
God could have erected an awesome and indestructible structure that displayed or depicted His message for mankind, but this suggestion is made under the presumption that such a structure would be accepted by man as God's message. In particular, this suggestion presumes that no such message from God is already in existence within His Creation and that such an attestation hasn't already been rejected by the minds of men, such as the creation of those very men.
God could have used the mechanism of “personal revelation” so that everyone would “just know” the message He chose to convey, but once again, this course is very subjective, allowing each individual to interpret the message how they “feel” it was intended to be understood (no doubt whatever interpretation suits their own needs), and is ultimately a very poor choice in and of itself.
God could simply walk among us, but this suggestion assumes that He has not already done so and found His message disobeyed and ignored, and Himself less than welcome among the wicked imaginations of mankind.
Reasons For Written Revelation
It is simply impossible to know exactly why God chose to use written language to communicate His message. Perhaps God chose the medium that He did because it was truly the most suitable format for God to correspond with man? Perhaps written words are somehow intimately intertwined with the very nature of God? Some of the reasons why God might have chosen the use of this method to deliver His message across all ages and to all people might include the following:
It is objective and universal.
It's extremely convenient as a means of dissemination.
It is able to be detailed and descriptive in a similar manner, for all people.
It is more direct and less subjective than “personal revelation” and other similar means.
It requires the reader's immediate attention.
It provides for an easy reference that is very near universally accurate in content.
The same message is able to be communicated across all audiences and ages in a format that is available for re-examination and remembrance so that there is no need for concern regarding the immediate maturity, circumstance, or reception of each and every individual recipient.
It would seem that despite its limitations the written word would appear to have been the most practical choice for imparting the truth of God since it is more easily preserved and presented in a precise, concrete, and tangible format than most other means imaginable. Certainly, it is much more efficient than the constant invasion of heavenly beings or the individual messages necessary to communicate to all people in all ages, much more easily recalled to mind by creatures of such short memories, much more useful than the erection of a monument, much more universally meaningful than “personal revelation”; and much more revealing of the humble nature of a truly benevolent Creator than some of the methods men might be disposed to think are seemingly more adequate.
Suggested Reading For Further Information
Geisler, Norman L., and Nix, William E. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1968, 1986.
Brand, C., Draper, C.W., and England, A. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. B&H Publishing Group, 2003
Geisler, Norman L. From God To Us. Moody, 1974
Bruce, F.F. The Origin of the Bible. Tyndale House, 2004
Wegner, Paul D. The Journey From Texts To Translations. Baker, 2004
Wegner, Paul D. A Student's Guide To Textual Criticism of the Bible: It's History, Methods and Results. Inter-varsity Press, 2004
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