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The Authority of Scripture

Updated: Jan 7, 2022



RLGN 490 Research Paper Final Draft - The Authority Of Scripture
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Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the authority of scripture. The first step in evaluating scripture’s authority is to read what scripture has to say about itself. Scripture will serve as the primary resource for this paper which will be evaluated and given thorough exegesis in order to apply it to the purpose of this paper. After exegesis is completed, this paper will explore what Jesus’s personal approach to the scriptures was thus outlining the approach that should be taken by his people when reading and applying scripture. Furthermore, this paper will evaluate and define divine revelation and the immanence and transcendence of God and His word. Finally, this paper will evaluate the term coined by Reformers, Sola Scriptura and how this presently relates to the authority of scripture. While this topic is vast, it is to be known that it does have its limitations, for the purpose of this paper, the primary focus will be on the authority of Scripture for believers even though scripture has authority over non-believers as well. While it seems impossible to explore in detail the doctrine of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, the scripture’s inerrancy, and provide many rebuttals to those who doubt, this paper will include key points of these categories in order to provide a basis for the authority of scripture.

Scripture reveals the heart and desires of God the Father for His children. This Word is the story and truth of salvation unfolding in God’s redemptive story from fall to salvation to the new heaven and earth. There is much truth and authority in Scripture that Christians should want to discover in their lifetime thus this paper’s is to comprehend Scripture’s importance and why Christians must revere it today.



What Scripture Says About Scripture

The first scripture to be evaluated is 2 Timothy 3: 16 – “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”[1] The first key word within this scripture is “inspired” which literally means “God – breathed”. This means that God literally breathed out the words of Scripture. This does not dismiss that human hands had written these physical words, yet it affirms the fact that scriptures are in fact God’s very words that are true, reliable, and faithful.[2] Exploring this passage in its full context within the passages of 2 Timothy 3:10-17, it can be seen that Paul gives reason for Timothy to continue to put trust in the scriptures he had already grew up with instilled in him by his mother and grandmother. The reasons given for Timothy to continue in Scripture are that the scriptures had made Timothy wise concerning salvation through faith in Christ Jesus and that scripture is God – breathed.[3] These are reasons that every Christian should accept in regard to whom these reasons for belief are coming from – Paul, a man once against the Christians who was now a man dedicated to preaching the gospel to ends of the earth with his emphasis being on the Gentiles. Paul affirmed God’s authority and active participation within scripture deeming it God’s truth and authoritative word.[4] Because Scripture is God’s truth it has been entrusted to someone with such faith as Timothy to transcribe it and pass it down to the next generation.[5]

So far it has been learned that scripture is reliable because it is God – breathed and Paul’s reasoning of God’s authorship and authority within God’s breathed out words. With further evaluation of this passage, it is noted that scripture has the ability to bring salvation to those who have their faith placed in it, yet its power should not be abused like false teachers had done in the past. Scripture’s authority and power is activated in the hands of those that teach it properly.[6] Due to Scripture being inspired by God it is considered useful – both the New Testament and the Old Testament.[7]

While all scripture is breathed out by God and useful for correction, it is vital to note that scripture itself is useful, not someone’s interpretation of it. Human minds are futile and can provide error when reading scripture out of context, but scripture needs to be read I context and remain useful when taking it as God’s word. Chapell and Hughes note that all scripture breathed out by God is sufficient and equips humankind for every good work.[8] Concluding their evaluation on this passage they state: “The testimony of God’s Holy Word is that it is his breath and that it is everything to His believers.”[9]

Furthermore, Piper evaluates 2 Timothy 3:14-17 to understand the complete scope of 2 Timothy 3:16’s context. He reiterates that Paul tells Timothy to “conserve the truth that you know and trust” which forms Piper’s perspective of the sacred writings as holy writings.[10] This holiness is found in the scripture’s divine quality separating them from other writings because God is the author.[11] Piper reiterates the saving power of scripture but elaborates on the changing power of scripture present in those who have reverence for it providing evidence for its authority. This saving power comes from God’s breathed out words which Piper declares as one of the most important statements in the Bible. He emphasizes that is breathed out by God, not inspired.[12] This is evident when we look at the original Greek cognates of the term – “theopneustos” translated as God breathed; theo, meaning God and pneustos, meaning breath.[13] Scripture consists of the very words of God, that alone should be enough for mankind to possess great reverence for scripture.

While 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves to be of great value concerning the authority if scripture, this paper will further evaluate a couple more passages that declare of scripture’s importance. The second passage evaluated is 2 Peter 1:20-21 which states, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”[14] In this passage Peter confirms that though Scripture was spoken and written by prophets they were moved to do so by the Holy Spirit ensuring that God’s breath is being taught. This passage means that no prophet was left alone to interpret their visons given by God rather God made these visions so clear to the prophets that there was no room for error.[15] Peter states in concurrence with the teachings of Paul – scripture is reliable because of its divine origin, not the futile human mind.[16] Considering this passage Walvoord notes throughout history scripture has been inseparable from the work and person of Jesus Christ which these prophesies are concerning. He further elaborates that disbelief in divinely inspired scriptures leads to disbelief in the works and person of Christ. The proof for divinely inspired scripture and the divinity of Christ are proof for one another and should not be separated.[17] In addition to the previous scripture, it is important to briefly look at 2 Peter 1:3-4 with emphasis on verse 4 which states – “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”[18] This scripture depicts that all things are because of God’s glory and excellence and for God’s glory while also referencing to the promises He has given to His people enabling them to share the gospel. Scripture contains prophetic words and promises in the Old Testament that are proven as truth once fulfilled in the New Testament. These truths and fulfilled prophecies should be enough to categorize scripture as authoritative today, tomorrow, and for all generations to come. While this should be enough there is more scriptural evidence to consider.

The last piece of scriptural evidence to be evaluated in solitude is Psalm 119. This chapter is written in admiration of scripture and its benefits to those who consume it. The author finds value within scripture by showing delight in God’s Word in verse 24 – “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” [19] Not only is authority grounded in scripture, but joy is found in God’s words as well. Verses 27 – 28 go on to ask for understanding of His words and gaining strength from them. This gives emphasis to the New Testament words of Paul and Peter of God’s words being breathed out by God, because the human with the pen is asking for understanding. In verses 97-100 the author declares his love for God’s law and acknowledges the wisdom gained through scripture. In verse 116 the author asks God to sustain him according to God’s promises. This reiterates the power found in words breathed out by God. The author proceeds to proclaim the righteousness of God’s words and how they sustain those who abide by them. Even in the Old Testament, authors of scripture proclaimed the truth of God’s words, verse 160 says, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”[20]

As seen through scripture it can be confidently stated that both old and new testament authors declared the authority of scripture because of its divine author. The psalmist knew that God’s words were good for him and could strengthen him as long as the Lord game him the wisdom to comprehend His words. Paul wrote to Timothy of the importance of following in the faith that saved him and continue in it by preaching that saving gospel to others. Peter agreed with the words of Paul by stating scripture is penned by human hands but spoken and revealed by God. While it is important to note what the human authors thought about scripture, it is vital that Christians know what Jesus believed of scripture.

Jesus’ View of Scripture

Jesus believed the Old Testament scriptures to be truth. This is known by the multitude of times He answers questions or temptation with passages from the Old Testament. Barrett gives multiple examples of Christ’s belief of the Old Testament as inspired by God; this section will give an overview of some of these with supporting scripture. First, Jesus gave credit to the Holy Spirit for the Old Testament. When Jesus was asked why teachers say the Messiah is the son of David, he replies with the passage from Psalm 110 which states that David himself was speaking by the Holy Spirit declaring prophesy of the Messiah.[21] It is also interesting to note that Christ used “Scripture” and God interchangeable as was done in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament “Yahweh” and “Torah” were used interchangeably leading to the belief that God’s word, the Torah and God were synonymous.[22] Christ following this pattern allows Christians to see that Christ believed in Scripture’s words being the same as God’s words thus those who follow Christ should do the same. Another important statement Barrett makes in regard to Jesus and the authority of scripture is that even Jesus’ enemies never questioned his belief in the Old Testament as divine truth from God. All first century Jews believed in the divine inspiration of the Torah, both Jesus’ disciples and His enemies.[23] Traditional Judaism had three elements to abide by, Sabbagh day loyalty, temple loyalty, and loyalty to the Torah.[24] Loyalty to the Torah deems the authority of Scripture in the Old Testament – this was not a new thought with Jesus and the disciples or the apostles after Jesus. Ascension. Jewish leaders may have questioned Christ’s loyalty to the Sabbath and the temple, but never His loyalty to the Tora, He believed that the Torah was inspired by God thus making it authoritative just as they did.[25] The last reasoning given to believe that Christ believed in the old Testament is that Jesus Himself submitted to the authority of the Old Testament Scripture.[26] This can be found when Jesus uses scripture to battle the temptations of Satan while in the wilderness found in Matthew 4:1-11. Throughout these passages Jesus responds to Satan with the words, “Scripture says” until Christ finally has enough of Satan’s shenanigans and says in verse 10, ““Get out of here Satan,” Jesus told him, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.””[27] Jesus knew that there is authority in the God – breathed scriptures which equipped Him to battle off Satan. Christ’s followers must believe in that same authority of scripture and use that same authority to win the battles in their own lives. As if knowing that the world’s Savior believes in the truth in scripture there is more evidence to the authority of scripture. Jesus believed in its inerrant authority that is derived from God’s transcendence.

Scripture’s Inerrancy and the Transcendence of God

Reasons to believe in the truth and authority of Scripture include Scripture’s inspiration and inerrancy along with the transcendence of God. The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is derived from God as author. The Bible can be considered error free because the words, not just ideas, of the Bible were precisely inspired by God. These inspired words concern the categories of geography, history, and science.[28] Concerning Scripture’s inerrancy it is important to recall that human interpretation and understanding of God’s word does not change the inerrancy of God’s divinely inspired scripture. The misinterpretation of a passage of scripture has solely to do with the finite human mind which has not consumed enough knowledge to appropriately comprehend scripture. This iterates the importance of the Christian to ask for wisdom and the revelation of the Holy Spirit while reading the words of God. The Moody Bible Institute reiterates this point nicely by stating, “The Bible is infallible in all it affirms to be true and therefore absolutely reliable. We, however, may be fallible in our interpretation of the Bible.”[29] In accordance with misinterpretation being the result of a finite mind Barret reminds his readers that scripture has been kept inerrant in its copies from generation to generation and translation to translation.[30] This inerrancy is from God Himself. Barrett confirms that inerrancy is applicable to the original autographs of scripture and that inerrancy is the product of divine inspiration. The reader of Scripture does not get to choose which portions are inerrant and which ones contain error; Scripture is to be taken for its whole truth.[31] It is important that readers of Scripture know that the Bible is divinely inspired because this means that scripture is infallible – completely free of error meaning that God would not lead His people astray. One fallacy would cause mistrust in God’s words which is why the doctrine of divine inspiration is vital to the Christian.[32] According to Bray infallibility does not teach error and inerrancy does not have error and continues his position on the infallibility and inerrancy of scripture by stating: “Infallibility and inerrancy have their place, but divine inspiration remains the key to interpreting the text because that is what makes it the word of God.”[33]

Divine Revelation

Furthermore, where divine inspiration has been discussed so must divine revelation be discussed. Divine revelation makes the distinction between the Creator and the created and is how God makes Himself known to His creation. This section will discuss the two types of divine revelation – general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is how God reveals Himself to His creation through nature. General revelation is broad, yet reveals God as Creator, but is not sufficient enough to save His creation. Special revelation is needed for the salvation of creation.[34] Special revelation is revealed to God’s creation and used through the medium of God’s written word. Barrett describes scripture as the Spirit’s “ever-present gift to God’s people, and one through which the Spirit brings us into union with the resurrected and ascended Christ, our Lord.”[35] Special revelation is God’s word progressively revealed over the course of history after being placed in human hands.[36] With special revelation the Christian is given the authority to consume scripture for their own use and for teaching others. Special revelation is what gives God’s children understanding and authority like the Psalmist mentioned above – scripture can be used in the same way today as it has been used since the Old Testament. Divine revelation gives the Christian confidence on knowing Scripture possesses authority and can still be applied to today’s generation and all generations to come. It is important to know of what past generations thought of Scripture in order to better the future.

The Reformation View on Scripture

In history, when looking at the Reformers it can be seen that they too agreed with the authority of scripture. This belief in the authority of scripture alone is what made the church separate from the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout this time of separation from the Roman Catholic Church the term “Sola Scriptura” became the basis for reformed theology. Reformed theologian, Luther struggled with the indulgences of the church and went on his own search for truth where he consulted scripture for this truth leading him to proclaim his famous 95 Theses. Through Luther’s study of scripture, he discovered the truth of salvation by faith alone confirming the authority and clarity found within the word of God.[37] Beker notes that Luther based the importance of scripture on ‘the historicity of the gospel and the harmonious unity of the gospel as witnessed in Scripture.”[38] This is a sum of what this paper is about; the unity of scripture proving its authority over creation. The Bible is fluid from Old to New Testament even though there is a large gap between the testaments. Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament proving truth to Scripture as well as His own faithfulness in Scripture. Besides Luther, Iraneus also believed in the divine inspiration of Scripture According to Laing, Iraneus claimed that the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit and operated under the Holy Spirit’s authority.[39] While the apostles’ words regarding the truth of the Old Testament is treasured, it is reassuring that a highly regarded theologian declares the New Testament as divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Once Christ ascended into heaven, God’s children were given the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead them in their faith, thus the apostles would have had the gift of the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s words to them.

In conclusion, Scripture’s authority is derived from divine inspiration – God’s very words breathed out penned by His choice of medium, human hands. There is no room for error in Scripture because it comes from a perfect God who does not lead His people astray. The authority of scripture does not come from the interpreter of the Scripture, but its author. According to Paddison Scripture is a living authority because God works through it, the transcendent God of the universe still works through His Scripture to this very day.[40] He further states that the authority of the word comes form its author who penned the Bible to have ultimate authority when it leads to Christ and the saving work of God.[41] From Old Testament to New Testament we see consistency in what Scripture has to say about its own authority and those who show it reverence. Jesus believed in the Old Testament while fulfilling prophecy in the New Testament, so should Christians and all who wish to be saved. Scripture has the power to save, guard hearts, and change lives through the theopneustos words.









Bibliography

Barrett, Matthew. “Scripture as Divine Revelation.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/scripture-divine-revelation/.

Barrett, Matthew. God's Word Alone: the Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

Barrett, Matthew. “The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/authority-inerrancy-scripture/.

Barrett, Matthew. “The Sufficiency of Scripture.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-sufficiency-of-scripture/.

Brand, Chad, Eric Alan Mitchell, Steve Bonds, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2015.

Bray, Gerald. “What Is Divine Inspiration (and Why Does It Matter)?” Crossway, August 4, 2014. https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-divine-inspiration-and-why-does-it-matter/.

Chapell, Bryan, and R. Kent Hughes. “3 Lessons about Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16–17.” Crossway, April 3, 2014. https://www.crossway.org/articles/3-lessons-about-scripture-from-2-timothy-31617/.

Dockery, David S. Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016.

Feinberg, John S. “The Authority of Scripture.” Crossway, April 17, 2018. https://www.crossway.org/articles/the-authority-of-scripture/.

Frame, John M. “Divine Revelation: God Making Himself Known.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/divine-revelation-god-making-known/.

Frame, John M. “Divine Transcendence and Immanence.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/divine-transcendence-immanence/.

Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012.

Holy Bible Study Bible, New Living Translation, Linen Edition. Tyndale House Pub, 2017.

Laing, Kenneth R. “The Logos and the Authority of Scripture: A Proposal Motivated by Irenaeus’ Trinitarian Account of Revelation.” International journal of systematic theology : IJST. 20, no. 4 (2018): 455–471.

PADDISON, A. (2011), The Authority of Scripture and the Triune God. International Journal of Systematic Theology, 13: 448-462. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1111/j.1468-2400.2011.00594.x

Piper, John. “All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God - Continue in It.” Desiring God, August 11, 2012. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-scripture-is-breathed-out-by-god-continue-in-it.

"The Authority of Scripture: Normative Or Incidental?" Theology Today 49, no. 3 (10, 1992): 376, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fauthority-scripture-normative-incidental%2Fdocview%2F208073762%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D12085.

“The Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Bible.” Moody Bible Institute. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.moodybible.org/beliefs/positional-statements/bible/.

Walvoord, John F. “1. The Holy Spirit in Divine Revelation.” 1. The Holy Spirit in Divine Revelation | Bible.org, January 1, 2008. https://bible.org/seriespage/1-holy-spirit-divine-revelation.

“What Does the Bible Have to Say about Its Own Authority? by Don Stewart.” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/stewart_don/faq/bible-authoritative-word/question1-what-does-the-bible-say-about-authority.cfm.

Zucker, Steven, and Beth Harris. “An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation (Article).” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Accessed April 12, 2021. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/renaissance-and-reformation/protestant-reformation/a/an-introduction-to-the-prostestant-reformation.





[1] 2 Timothy 3:16, NLT" [2] Holy Bible Study Bible, New Living Translation, Linen Edition. Tyndale House Pub, 2017. [3] Dockery, David S. Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016. [4] IBID [5]Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012). [6] Holy Bible Study Bible, New Living Translation, Linen Edition. Tyndale House Pub, 2017. [7] IBID [8] Chapell, Bryan, and R. Kent Hughes. “3 Lessons about Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16–17.” Crossway, April 3, 2014. https://www.crossway.org/articles/3-lessons-about-scripture-from-2-timothy-31617/. [9] IBID [10] Piper, John. “All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God - Continue in It.” Desiring God, August 11, 2012. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-scripture-is-breathed-out-by-god-continue-in-it. [11] IBID [12] IBID [13] Chapell, Bryan, and R. Kent Hughes. “3 Lessons about Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16–17.” Crossway, April 3, 2014. https://www.crossway.org/articles/3-lessons-about-scripture-from-2-timothy-31617/. [14] 2 Peter 1:20-21, NLT [15] Holy Bible Study Bible, New Living Translation, Linen Edition. Tyndale House Pub, 2017. [16] Dockery, David S. Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016. [17] Walvoord, John F. “1. The Holy Spirit in Divine Re-velation.” 1. The Holy Spirit in Divine Revelation | Bible.org, January 1, 2008. https://bible.org/seriespage/1-holy-spirit-divine-revelation. [18] 2 Peter 1:4, NLT, emphasis added. [19] Psalm 119:24, NIV [20] Psalm 119:160, NIV [21] Barrett, Matthew. God's Word Alone: the Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016. [22] IBID [23] IBID [24] IBID [25] IBID [26] IBID [27] Matthew 4:10, NLT [28] “The Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Bible.” Moody Bible Institute. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.moodybible.org/beliefs/positional-statements/bible/. [29] IBID [30] Barrett, Matthew. “The Authority and Inerrancy of Scripture.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/authority-inerrancy-scripture/. [31] IBID [32] Bray, Gerald. “What Is Divine Inspiration (and Why Does It Matter)?” Crossway, August 4, 2014. https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-divine-inspiration-and-why-does-it-matter/. [33] IBID [34] Barrett, Matthew. “Scripture as Divine Revelation.” The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/scripture-divine-revelation/. [35] IBID [36] IBID [37] Zucker, Steven, and Beth Harris. “An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation (Article).” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Accessed April 12, 2021. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/renaissance-and-reformation/protestant-reformation/a/an-introduction-to-the-prostestant-reformation. [38] "The Authority of Scripture: Normative Or Incidental?" Theology Today 49, no. 3 (10, 1992): 376, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fauthority-scripture-normative-incidental%2Fdocview%2F208073762%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D12085. [39] Laing, Kenneth R. “The Logos and the Authority of Scripture: A Proposal Motivated by Irenaeus’ Trinitarian Account of Revelation.” International journal of systematic theology : IJST. 20, no. 4 (2018): 455–471. [40] PADDISON, A. (2011), The Authority of Scripture and the Triune God. International Journal of Systematic Theology, 13: 448-462. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1111/j.1468-2400.2011.00594.x [41] IBID





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