First of all, I will answer the question authoritatively: God did! In my article, “The Bible: Divinely Inspired” I included this quote from 2 Timothy 3:16:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
God inspired the writing of each book, and He chose which ones belong in His Bible. Yes, He used people to write the words; with the exception of the stone tablets that Moses received which were written by the finger of God. (In case you are curious, those tablets were placed in the Ark of the Covenant, so if Harrison Ford ever finds the real Ark, he can see if they are still there. Sorry if my humour seems irreverent to anyone, I don’t mean to offend.)
I have also received comments from those who believe that over the ages, individuals have added or omitted parts of the Bible to promote their own agenda. For example, I came across a statement in the Triond forum about King James, who authorized a group of scholars and theologians to make a careful English translation that the ordinary person could understand. The statement made in the forum was that because King James was a homosexual, he had the translators put in the parts about God hating homosexuality, possibly because he was ashamed of his passions. (That makes no sense to me. If he had the audacity to change the meaning of any part of the Bible, wouldn’t he want to take out the verses which condemn homosexuality, rather than put them in?)
My observations in the Triond forums have also revealed a disturbing lack of knowledge of both Biblical teachings and church history. I am especially concerned when people present half truths and whole lies and try to pass them off as informed truth.
I have been informed that the Council of Nicaea in 325 was a meeting of the powerful church leaders to choose which books to include or exclude in the Biblical canon (the word canon means “accepted as authoritative.”)
Some seem to think that these leaders started with hundreds of manuscripts, and then chose the ones that conformed to their own beliefs. They put in books that describe homosexuality as an abomination and took out books that give women more power. One Trionder even posted a list of over 500 books that he claimed had been rejected by the Church leaders. This list looked very impressive, especially when double spaced. It took 22 pages to print it out!
The list, however would be hilarious to anyone who took the time to read it over. For example “Assorted Manuscripts” was listed. I asked if Assorted is the title or the name of the author, but never received an answer. My theory is that this document just listed the titles of every existing manuscript written during the first three centuries after Christ. Some of the books do not exist except in theory, while quite a few were written by people who were not even Christians. Please believe me when I say that there were not five hundred manuscripts voted on by anyone.
A quick Google search of the Council of Nicaea will reveal the agenda of this meeting:
- “Resolve disagreements arising from within the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was the literal son of God or was he a figurative son, like the other “sons of God” in the Bible. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius took the first position; the popular presbyter Arius, from whom the term Arian controversycomes, took the second. The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250–318 attendees, all but two voted against Arius )
- Agreement on when to celebrate the Resurrection” (Source: Wikipedia)
There were actually at least eight meetings of church councils in the early centuries, and the subject of canon law was addressed at several of them.
There was very little disagreement regarding the books of the Old Testament. The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha, with some debate and discussion continuing today. The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures.
As for the New Testament, the only books which were questioned for a time by some early church leaders were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 3 John, Jude and Revelation. These books were discussed at several of these church councils, but they were finally and fully recognized by the church by the fourth century after Christ.
The canon is a list of authoritative books, not an authoritative list of books. The books regarded as Scriptural were chosen in a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest. Arthur Darby Nock used to tell his students at Harvard, “The most traveled roads in Europe are the best roads; that’s why they’re so heavily traveled.” British commentator William Barclay said it this way: It is the simple truth to say that the New Testament books became canonical because no one could stop them doing so.” (As quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ; Zondervan Publishing; 1998)
The Bible is no ordinary book. The same God who breathed His Word into the souls of at least 60 authors over the course of thousands of years has also been at work preserving and distributing His Word to all people in every generation.
Before the days of the printing press, it was the work of a scribe to make copies of the Scripture. Paul Little in his book, Know Why You Believe, says: “The work of a scribe was a highly professional and carefully executed task. It was a task undertaken by a devout Jew with the highest devotion. Since he believed he was dealing with the Word of God, he was acutely aware of the need for extreme care and accuracy.”
Before 1947, the earliest complete copy of the Hebrew Old Testament was copied around AD 900. In 1947, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provided proof of the care taken in the preservation of God’s Word.
In caves, in the valley of the Dead Sea, a group of Jews had lived at a place called Qumran from about 150 BC to AD 70. It was a communal society, much like a monastery. These Jews spent most of their time studying and copying the Scriptures. When the Romans invaded Israel in AD 70, the Qumran Jews hid their leather scrolls in jars in the caves in the side of the cliffs west of the Dead Sea.
These scrolls survived undisturbed until 1947, when a wandering Bedouin goat herdsman discovered them. Among the find was a complete copy of the book of Isaiah, and fragments of almost every book of the Old Testament. When a comparison was made, scholars were astonished by the accuracy of the Jewish scribes. For example, in Isaiah 53, there were only 17 letters which differed from the present text. Of these, ten letters are differences in spelling, four are minor style differences, and three letters are the Hebrew word for “light”, which was added after “they shall see” in verse 11. Out of 166 words in the chapter, only this one word is really in question, and it does not change the meaning of the passage at all. R. Laird Harris, in his book How Reliable is the Old Testament Text? , says that this accuracy is typical of the whole manuscript.
For the New Testament, even more ancient manuscripts still exist. In fact, Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ says that there are more than 5000 Greek manuscripts catalogued! Many of them are dated from about AD 200, while the oldest New Testament manuscript is a portion of the gospel of John which originated from between AD 100 to 150.
This explains why the commenters who regularly tell me that the gospel accounts were written in the third or fourth century never provide any evidence to sustain their theory. The evidence confirms my claim that yes, the Bible can be trusted. The authority of God’s written word remains intact.