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Where Did the Bible Come From?

Updated on February 7, 2019

How do we know the Bible is truly God's words to us?

2 Timothy 3:16 - "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,"


The Bible is the inspired word of God, but it is true that it was written by human hands. With so many books written throughout history, how do we know that the right books have been discovered and included in the Bible? Understanding how these books were collected and how they qualified to be in the Bibles we have today goes a long way in trusting them to be the Truth from God that they claim to be.

The Bible itself tells how God inspired men to write the words he wanted us to know. In his 2nd letter Peter explains “above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”. (2 Peter 1:20 -21)

How were the books of the Bible collected?

THE OLD TESTAMENT

From the time the Jews left Egypt, until they were about to be attacked by Babylon, the physical presence of God was with the Jews. It was called the Shekinah Glory of God, and appeared to them as a pillar of cloud or fire.

-While they were traveling to the Promised Land the cloud went in front of them as a guide so they would know the way to go. Exodus 13:21-“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

-Later the cloud filled the tabernacle, which was a portable tent that served as their place of worship, and traveled with them. Exodus 40:34 – 38 –“Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out-until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day and fire was in the cloud by night in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.”

-A portion of the Tabernacle was sectioned off behind a curtain, this was called the Holy of Holies and also contained the Arc of the Covenant. When the people weren’t traveling they set up the tent and God’s presence rested above the arc and no one could go in whenever they wanted. God’s presence was Holy, and nothing could enter except under his direction. Leviticus 16:2 – “The LORD told Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover”

It was here, by the Ark of the Covenant and in the presence of God that the Jews put the original books of the Old Testament as they were written. Deuteronomy 31:24 – 26 –“After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law(Genesis – Deuteronomy)from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites(the priests)who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you.”

Because of the Nature of God, nothing was able to exist in his presence that he didn’t approve of, therefore we can be assured that the books we have in the Old Testament are truly God’s words to man.

Once the Jews were settled in their homeland and King Solomon finally built a permanent temple, it also had a portion sectioned off behind a curtain to serve as the Holy of Holies where the presence of God among them could reside above the Ark of the Covenant. 1 Kings 8:6 – “The priests then brought the ark of the LORD”S covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim (10) when the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.”

After Malachi, there were no more prophets of God until John the Baptist, 400 years later. Nothing written during this time was considered part of the sacred scriptures or Old Testament Canon*.

Jewish historian Josephus writes “From Artaxerxes until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy or like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased….for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything form them, or to alter anything in them.” (Contra Apion 1.8)(pg 206)

The rabbis stated that “With the death of Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi the latter prophets, the Holy Spirit ceased out of Israel.”

THE NEW TESTAMENT

While The Old Testament was collected and kept in the Temple by the Jews, the early Church collected and shared the letters and books of the New Testament. However the churches were spread throughout the world and it took time to translate and circulate the different manuscripts that make up what we now call the New Testament. Between that, and the efforts of the Roman government to destroy them, it was difficult to gather the whole New Testament together as one book during the first few centuries after Jesus rose from the dead. Finally, late in the 4th century A.D., the Emperor Constantine put an end to the persecutions and the Church officially recognized the 27 books of the New Testament. Each book of the Bible had to meet certain qualifications before it could be included as the Word of God. The Early Church Fathers carefully considered each book in light of the following tests to discover if what was written was truly inspired by God. It was serious business, for many lives had been risked and even lost for the truth contained in these Scriptures.

How did a Book Qualify to be in the Bible?



1. It had to be written by a Prophet or Apostle

In a time when the Holy Spirit was not constantly present with each individual like we have him today, Prophets were the voice of God to men. They were compelled to speak God’s words without error. (Deuteronomy 18:17-20 – “The LORD said to me: “What they say is good, I will raise up for them a prophet like you…I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him...(20) But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.”) Their books are filled with phrases proclaiming things like, “The word of the LORD came to me” (Jeremiah 1: 4), “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me” (2 Samuel 23:2), “the Lord said” (Judges 1:2), “This is what the LORD says” (Isaiah 66:1). When God spoke to the prophets of Israel, they recorded his words and their books were kept in the Ark of the Covenant. (Deuteronomy 31: 24 – 26). Later they were kept in the Temple. (2 Kings22:8)

All the New Testament books had to be written by or associated with an Apostle. Ephesians 2:19-20-“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners..but fellow citizens with God’s people…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself..“

Source

2. The Prophet or Apostle had to be confirmed by God


Every book of the Bible had to be written by a prophet or apostle of God. (although some used scribes or associates to do their writing for them) Since there were also false prophets, each prophet or apostle had to be confirmed as approved by God. This was done by acts of God, or miracles. For example, in the Old Testament, Moses performed the 10 plagues, the walls of Jericho fell for Joshua, Elijah brought a widows son back to life and many more. In the New Testament, Peter and John healed the crippled beggar, Paul cured the lame man and Peter brought Tabitha back to life. Paul told the Corinthians, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” 2 Corinthians 12:12

3. The Message had to tell the Truth about God

Since God can’t contradict Himself or lie to us, all the books of the Bible have to agree completely. (2 Corinthians 1:17 – 18 and Hebrews 6:18 and Deuteronomy 13: 1 – 3, Deut. 18: 20 - 22) This was an important test later when the prophets and apostles were no longer around and the new generations had not seen the miracles. It is primarily used to discover which books do not belong in the Bible.

Source

4. The Book had to Display the Power of God

Not only did the writer have to be confirmed by the power of God, but the book he wrote also had to contain the power of God. The Bible is a living and active book. (Hebrews 4:12) There is no other book like it. If a book was from God, it had to demonstrate the power to change lives, to edify and evangelize. If it did not transform, then it wasn’t backed by God. (Isaiah 55:11)

5. The Book had to be Accepted as from God by the People of God to whom it was Written

The people the book was written to would have known if the writer was a prophet who had been confirmed by God. They were the best to tell if it belonged in the scriptures. For example, Moses’ books were put in the Ark as soon as they were written, (Deuteronomy 31:26, 1 Samuel 10:25), Paul quotes Luke as scripture, (1 Timothy 5:18) and the letters from the apostles were read and circulated among the churches. (1 Thess. 5:27)

The Bible is Finished

The Old Testament was finish by 400 BC. The New Testament was pretty much finished by the end of the first century. This was a time when eyewitness accounts could confirm or deny anything that was written. The prophets, apostles and their eyewitnesses are all dead and gone and no one has arrived who has been able to display the “sign” of an apostle or prophet. Therefore we can conclude that Scripture is closed and nothing after this time period has the authority needed to be included in the Canon of the Bible.

What is the Canon of Scripture?

Canon is simply the term used to refer to the Bible. It is the collection of books that has been discovered to be inspired by God.

Do these requirements help you believe that the Bible is inspired by God even if it is written by human hands?

See results

Bibliography

Giesler, Norman & William Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986

Butler, Trent C. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

© 2013 April Reynolds

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    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      3 years ago from Arizona

      Oh, that's a good one. I will see if I can find it, I can't afford to buy anything. What are you going to read?

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      3 years ago

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      3 years ago from Arizona

      Hello,

      Well, you should know there are several things I disagree with Martin Luther about, so keeping James shouldn't be a surprise.

      I will admit that its been about 20 years since I read the deuterocanonical apocrypha so if you want to choose one for me to reread and I can find it at the library I will see if I can read it on the plane in a couple weeks, but in exchange I will ask that you read a book of your choice out of the books of the Bible that we do agree on.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      3 years ago

      How do the deuterocanonical books not meet the criterion for the canon?!? Your position is nonsensical! Martin Luther wanted to throw James out. Do you want to throw James out?!? NONSENSE!

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      4 years ago from Arizona

      Good Morning Daniel!

      thank you, I glanced at this briefly this morning, but I will read through it later when I get a chance.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      4 years ago

      Here April, I want you to read this article:

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

      I want to help you come to a higher vision of the church so that you can more easily walk with Christ allowing the church to help you. Okay?

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      4 years ago

      FACEPALM! The Church is the DIVINE INSTITUTION which declared the Bible inspired! Eastern Orthodox accept the Maccabees, Catholics accept the Maccabees so they are INSPIRED!

      It is the Church that interprets scripture. Maccabees, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Baruch--all of these are 100% INSPIRED!

      Thomas Aquinas appeals to Sirach as scripture in his Summa Theologia so this was considered scripture then.

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      4 years ago from Arizona

      Good Morning,

      While I would like to take the time to research and confirm my answer for you, I don’t think I will have time over the next week. My husband is off all next week and the kids most of it. I thought maybe I would have time this past weekend, but that didn’t work out either. I don’t want to ignore you either, so here are my quick, unrefined thoughts on your comments.

      First, since the scriptures are inspired by God, it is God who gave us the Bible. The qualifications I listed here is what the church used to discover which books were inspired by God out of the many that were written.

      Moses began collecting the books of the Old Testament that were inspired by God once he finished making the Ark of the Covenant. Other inspired books were added as they were written. So even though the collection wasn’t called the Old Testament Canon, they did collect the books they knew to be inspired by God.

      Yes, the Maccabees wrote in the 2nd century BCE. One of my assignments in college was to read and evaluate a book from the Apocrypha to see if it met the requirements to be considered inspired by God and included in the Bible. I chose first Maccabees and it did not meet the criteria. I think I wrote ten pages just on the contradictions it contained in comparison with the rest of the Bible. So yes it has historical value and value as part of the Apocrypha but even the Catholic Church didn’t include it, or the rest of the Apocrypha that it accepted, as an equal part in the bible until the middle of the 1500’s. In a move that was considered by many as more political than spiritual.

      I hope that you can have an enjoyable week this week and that you can find many things in which to be thankful.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      4 years ago

      The Maccabees were written in the 2nd century BCE. The Old Testament was not completed by the 5th century BCE. In addition, there was no Old Testament canon until much later. You never mention this. The Catholic Church gave us the Bible so they get to decide how to interpret it and they tell you you need to baptise your children ASAP because baptism saves. Get the picture? Baptise them. Stop being a Protestant.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      The deuterocanonical works which are also apart of the Bible although not the Protestant one, a lot of them were written from 400-1 B.C.E.

      It's important to note they weren't added to the Bible, on the contrary, they were actually taken out of the Bible. Especially Sirach.

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Cgenaea. A treasury is a great way to think of the Bible, it truly is. Thank you.

    • Cgenaea profile image

      5 years ago from Illinois

      Since the bible is a treasury of the love and instruction of God for me, I need to comment.

      Though many do not believe in its authenticity it only makes good sense for God to write his story for all to see. No possibility of the lack of exposure to his truths on "that" day. It is written. Take it or leave it.

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      Rayne123 

      5 years ago

      Well thank you for your quick reply. I am so glad to hear that you are feeling better. I had no doubt in my mind when I seen that picture that you would be ok.

      Thank you for clarifying the different translations of the bible, you did an awesome job. I now see what the difference is.

      As for Jesus bringing them both back to life, yes you are exactly right, he had the powers to do anything and so many miracles were told about in the bible, just not word for word as there were too many.

      I am sure in his walking days more than we read in the good book was just half his story.

      His life before an adult intrigues me, I would love to travel back to that day and watch Jesus as a little boy.

      His turning water into wine, probably goes a lot deeper than we are told. So yes you are right Jesus healed more than we know.

      If you notice the poll that you left in your hub has more people voting no, which is a shame, however I have to wonder if reason being that they already believed even without this hub. That would be a good thing.

      thank you

      Once again glad to hear your better

      Blessings

      Laurie

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Hi Laurie! 7 weeks without being dizzy :) Thank you for your prayers! It is good to hear from you.

      On the translations, the KJV, along with the NASB and NKJV, is a literal translation of the original languages. But it was translated in 1611 so we don't talk that way anymore. The NKJV is the updated version translated in 1982. The NASB was translated in 1971 and updated in 1995 and translated to a 12th grade reading level.

      The NIV is a meaning based translation, it was translated thought for thought. It was translated at an 8th grade level.

      The ESV and HCSB is a good combination of both styles in an attempt to give the best possible meaning. literal translation and thought for thought.

      The Living Bible and the Message are paraphrases, not really translations.

      Is there any reason why Jesus couldn't bring both the young girl and the man back to life and each writer is telling a different part of the story.

      Have a good evening!

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you Newengland, I am grateful for your efforts to move your conversation with JMcFarland

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you Rasta, It is good to hear from you. I appreciate your visit and comment

    • profile image

      Rayne123 

      5 years ago

      Hi April, how are you doing

      Great hub and very good information in this hub.

      It is neat to think that the word of God went from hands to hands and kept truth. However we all know that God knows the future so God made sure that this bible would land in proper hands.

      IF not, as God says, no one will add to or take away anything from this book or the plagues that are in the book will be added to their own lives.

      What I dont understand is why so many versions, such as NKV NJKV and so on.

      They are all worded differently. Why wasnt just one book written exactly how it was lived and then left alone. If you watch the stories on utube of the bible days (such as the story of the disciples) you will see that they all seen/heard things differently. In one story it is said that Jesus brought a young girl back to life but in another version it is known to be a man.

      How could they all see different things, I guess this is just something I quite dont understand.

      I guess if you believe in God you believe in the bible and if you dont its just a fairytale.

      Last but not least, no disrespect to JM and Newengland, however this is Aprils hub and it should be respected, not a place to argue over your differences.

      Hope you are doing well April

      Blessings

      Laurie

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      JMcFarland,

      Fair enough. It depends what is meant by "unreliable". I would be inclined to agree with Ehrman on the Bible's unreliable history given the definition but let's move this discussion elsewhere.

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Elizabeth 

      5 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Didn't say that Ehrman held that position. I said that he made the case (rather conclusively) that the gospels are unreliable as historical sources.

      Perhaps the statement was atrocious, but I tend to react to posts the way that I am approached. Forgive my reactions, but I think we can agree I had good cause.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      JMcFarland,

      Let's move to your hubs.

      Actually Ehrman doesn't hold that Christianity is false because of his textual criticism. And I honestly don't get the vibe that he views the Bible as untrustworthy although he does question a lot of what he has been taught. I commented on my ex-mythicism on one of your hubs already. So to say my position is biased and not looking at the other side is a bit atrocious.

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Elizabeth 

      5 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I have read a LOT of Ehrman. Even audited one of his classes at Chapel Hill. I have also read the rebuttal to his latest work on the historical Jesus. Unlike some, I read both sides - I find that to the be only honest way to approach the subject. Don't you? Aside from the fact that Ehrman accepts a historical Jesus, his other published works have gone into depth about why the gospels are not reliable sources and the earliest forms of the Christian church. I don't find a lot of Christians agree with him, but strangely they all point me to him when it comes to the historicity argument. I find that amusing.

      I present the side that I typically agree with in my writing. I think we all do. While I do add counter-arguments, I focus on the aspects that I tend to find compelling through research. Why would I write compelling cases for the other side if I could find any? People that agree with those positions write those. Additionally - the hubs of mine that you commented on were based on rebutting the arguments of the apologists. I don't know how much more clear on the subject I can be - but criticizing someone's credentials and mocking them is not a way to open and honest conversation.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      JMcFarland,

      I wasn't saying that because you weren't a Christian you can't study the Bible. In fact, a lot of really good Biblical scholars (such as Bart Ehrman) aren't Christian. Thank you for clarifying what you do believe about the historical Jesus though. I would strongly recommend adding Ehrman to your shelf. And from your posts that I have read of yours, I really haven't seen the other side presented too well so I can only really go by what I've read there.

      April,

      lifegate is spot-on. Josephus is in fact a legitimate historian. Definitely a biased historian (like we all are) but still a legitimate historian. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia was showing his biasedness and why it is acceptable to question him. History is never a black and white field and one historian shouldn't be the only trustworthy one. But there is no evidence that the canon for the Hebrew Bible closed in 400 B.C.E.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Very brave of you to tackle such a controversial issue. I am glad that you shared some new information with me.

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you lifegate, I appreciate the encouragement! I always try my best to be as accurate as possible in spite of all the different views out there. I thought my time range was wide enough, I will add a few years to it.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Don't sweat it April,

      You only missed the NT dates by at most 20 years - hardly anything to quibble about considering 2,000 years in between. Josephus is still a legitimate historian. I often find the smarter some people think they are, the less they know. A degreed Biblical student doesn't mean anything. And whoever the latter scholars are doesn't mean anything. Most of what is taught in seminaries these days is not truth. So maybe everything isn't exactly to the the minute, but your main thought is right on. I won't be responding to any comments here. Just wanted you to know I appreciate y our article. Keep at it! Oh, by the way, I hold a D.Div. (not that it matters).

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Elizabeth 

      5 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      Yes, because my beliefs and study are completely relevant to my one, polite and simple comment on anther persons hub. You don't have to accept the Bible to study it, you know. Assuming that I have only read one side is not only silly, its baseless, and making incorrect assumptions about a complete stranger is somewhat juvenile.

      Additionally, I do not reject outright a historical jesus, I question it and I have stated several times that I think is impossible to know for certain either way.

      Thanks, however, for pointing out my "flaws". It makes you look like a bully hiding behind a fake name.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      It's okay. JMcFarland has plenty of reading to do herself. It would take perhaps a lifetime to sort out a lot of these issues. I'm hoping I can get Jaroslav Pelikan's book on "Who's Bible is It?"

      BTW, JMcFarland rejects the concept of an historical Jesus and hasn't read much except the mythicist side on that matter.

      Also, I wasn't going to comment until I saw JMcFarland comment.

    • April Reynolds profile imageAUTHOR

      April Reynolds 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for the heads-up! I will check my sources.

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      Fact-checking is right.

      "These latter scholars rightly reject as untrue the statement of Josephus, which refers the close of the Old Testament canon to the time of Esdras; and in the well-known bias of the same Jewish historian for magnifying whatever concerns his nation they have a valid reason for doubting his assertion that the prophecies of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great when this prince passed through Palestine." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04621b.htm)

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Elizabeth 

      5 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      From a degreed biblical student, some of your facts are not quite right, and your dating of the New testament books do not match the consensus of biblical scholarship. You may want to fact check this hub.

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