What the Bible Is Not
The Bible is a collection of stories and histories that reflect the understanding, and changing understanding, of a people’s relationship with their God. It is rich with both history and spiritual guidance. But sometimes we put expectations on this great book that it cannot fulfill.
The Bible is not a historical document. Parts of it chronicle historical events. But the concept of history, as we know it, did not exist until about 200 years ago. Before that, fact-based, impartial narratives of prior events, based on verifiable sources, simply did not exist. We cannot hold the writers of the Bible to a standard they never knew.
We are often told that the Bible is the Word of God. Those who claim this often follow up by telling us that this is so because the Bible says it is. That is, of course, a circular argument. I may write a book that claims it is the greatest novel ever written. That wouldn’t make it so. People would need to read it and decide for themselves if that was true.
Whether we believe the Bible was inspired by God is entirely a personal decision. But we should make that decision based on our own experience of reading the Bible, not on what someone else tells us, whether they are for or against.
Let’s examine what the Bible does say.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)
When the Bible speaks of the Word, it is referring to something far greater than ink on paper. According to John, Jesus was the Word. The Bible points to that Word, but it would be absurd to claim that the Bible is Jesus.
I prefer to leave aside titles such as “Word of God.” I believe the Bible was written by men and women who were moved by God in what they wrote. The whole of the Bible suggests a developing relationship with God, and it was written by the men and women who were having that experience.