Scripture: God's Written Word -- Chapter
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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Evidence of Scripture as God's
This leads to the next affirmation, namely, that Scripture is the written
word of God, or the word of God in writing. As we have observed above,
there is, first, the spoken word of Godand we have considered
various relations of Scripture to it. Now we move on to deal with the
quite important affirmation that the Scriptures themselves are Gods
A. The Self-Attestation of Scripture
The classical verse in this connection is II Timothy 3:16, which begins:
"All Scripture is inspired by God." The word translated as
"inspired" means literally "God-breathed."21 Thus does Paul claim for the totality of Scripture"all"22an immediate inspiration
from God. It is not said that the Scriptures are breathed into, rather
they are God-breathed; it is not so much "inspiration" but
"spiration." Hence, they are the product of Gods Spirit23the Holy Spirit. The
conclusion: the Scriptures as God-breathedare His written
We may look again at the words "all Scripture." What does
this include? Undoubtedly, at least the Old Testament scriptures are
being referred to. Just prior to this verse Paul speaks to Timothy about
"how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings..."
(II Timothy 3:15). "Sacred writings" may also be translated
as "holy scriptures,"24
thus making reference to the Old Testament and possibly certain Christian
writings.25 In any event Paul is claiming for the Old Testament,
at least, the status of all Scripture as given by immediate inspiration
of God. One further Pauline statement may be noted: "whatever was
written in former days was written for our instruction" (Romans
15:4). "Whatever," by definition, signifies "all":
and in this instance would seem clearly to point to the whole of the
Now, turning specifically to the New Testament, we observe the words
in II Peter which speak of Pauls letters, plus other undesignated
writings, as Scripture: "our beloved brother Paul wrote to you...
in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand,
which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they
do the other scriptures" (3:15-16). The word "all" is
likewise used here; hence this would obviously include Pauls second
letter to Timothy, and since "the other scriptures" are mentioned,
the implication is clear that all of Pauls letters are Scripture.
What "the other scriptures" are, in addition to Pauls
letters, is not specified, but in all likelihood the reference is to
other portions of what will later become the New Testament canon.
We may conclude this section with the observation that Scripture attests
to its own immediate inspiration. II Timothy 3:16 which declares "all
scripture" to be "God-breathed" is itself (according
to II Peter 3:15-16) Scripture. Thus there is unmistakably the self-attestation
of Scripture to being Gods written word.26
B. The Frequent Identification of Scripture with God Speaking
Reference has been made to Gods spoken word as not being simply
identical with Scripture. Howeverit is now quite important to
addScriptures often are referred to as God speaking. That is to
say, while Gods word is surely more than Scripture (for example,
God speaks in and through creation, incarnation, and proclamation),
it is also declared to be Scripture. In such cases, God speaking
and Scripture speaking are viewed as identical.
A number of examples are readily at hand. Jesus Himself on one occasion
says: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning
made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" (Matthew
19:4-5). The Old Testament passage, Genesis 2:24, from which this quotation
is taken, makes no reference to the words as being spoken by God. The
words would seem simply to be those of the writer; however, Jesus refers
to them as spoken by God. Also, we may observe instances in Pauls
letters where Scripture and God are actually interchangeable terms.
"For the scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up"
(Romans 9:17), and "the scripture... preached the Gospel beforehand
to Abraham saying, In you shall all the nations be blessed"
(Galatians 3:8). In both cases these Old Testament words spoken by God
(see Exodus 9:16 and Genesis 12:3) are identified with Scripture speaking.
One further example, in Hebrews: "as the Holy Spirit says, Today,
when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (3:7-8),
a quotation from Psalm 95:7-8 where the Psalmist is exhorting the people.
Thus, again, a particular Scripture is identified with God (in this
case, the Holy Spirit) speaking.27
In the same vein there is the occasional designation of Scriptures
as "the oracles of God." Paul speaks of the Jews as having
been "entrusted with the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2), and
in Hebrews reference is made to the "elementary principles of the
oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12).28
Scriptures, accordingly, are divine sayings or utterances.29 Hence, once again, there is a biblical identification of Scripture
with God speaking. One further word might be added: it is quite significant
that the commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai are described in
Acts 7:38 as "living oracles." Accordingly, the lawand,
by extension, the whole of Scriptureis the living voice of God.
C. Scripture as Self-Authenticating
In addition to the Scriptures own verbal witness (attestation
and identification) to being Gods word in writing, they bear a
character of self-authentication; they show themselves to be the word
of God.30 Scriptures convey throughout a note of magisterial
authority; they speak forthrightly of God and His activity on almost
every page; they move with assurance between the two vast poles of creation
and consummation; they focus on the stupendous theme of divine incarnation
and redemption; and though written over hundreds of years by scores
of authors in many formshistory, law, prophecy, wisdom literature,
gospel, epistle, apocalypsethere is the amazing fact of an overall
unity. The evidence of a divine hand in the writing is unmistakable.
D. Scriptures are Confirmed as Gods Word by the Holy
Finally, we speak of the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit: the Holy
Spirit bears witness that the Scriptures are Gods written word.
Hence, climactically the testimony is not that of Scripture to itself
or about itself; rather it resides in the highest possible certitude,
namely, the Holy Spirit. Since all Scripture is "God-breathed,"
"God-Spirited"given by the immediate inspiration of
the Holy Spiritthen the ultimate assurance of its divine authority
is the inner witness of the same Spirit.
This means, accordingly, that the believing community and the individual
in whom the Holy Spirit moves and dwells has the ever-present certitude
of the Scriptures being Gods written word. Paul writes that "we
have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from
God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which
things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those
taught by the Spirit" (I Corinthians 2:12-13 NASB). Thus the Holy
Spirit, whom believers have received, alone can bring knowledge and
validation of the divine authority and truth of Scripture.
One of the most significant features of the contemporary move of the
Holy Spirit in many believers lives is the way in which He has
brought about also an increasing regard for the high authority of Scripture.
The entire Bible is freshly recognized as Gods own written word.
With the breath of the Holy Spirit bringing new life and power, there
is at the same time a quickening sense of the Scriptures being Gods
word in writing. All of Scripture, Old Testament and New, speaks in
such fashion that its words are recognized as the voice of God. Truly
the identification (earlier mentioned) of "the Scripture says"
with "God says" is no longer a formal matter of recognition;
it becomes deeply experiential. One knows that when Scripture
speaks God speaks. That the Scriptures are "God-breathed,"
and therefore totally His word in writing, is a matter of immediate
apprehension by the "Spirit-breathed" community and person.31
21 As the New International Version (NIV) translates.
22 The Greek word is pasa, which may also be rendered as "every"
with the possible translation, "Every Scripture inspired by God"
(see the New American Standard Bible [NASB] margin.). This translation
(as in the main text of the New English Bible [NEB]), implying that
not all Scriptures are inspired, would scarcely seem to be Pauls
23 "God-breathed"theopneustos in the Greekalso
24 As in KJV and NIV. The Greek is hiera grammata, literally "sacred
25 Hiera grammata "is the name for the holy scriptures of the Old
Testament in Greek-speaking Judaism" (Dibelius, as quoted in The
Interpreters Bible [Nashville: Abingdon, 1952] on this text).
The expression may also refer to certain "Christian documents,
even Gospels as well as Epistles" (ibid.). The context, namely
that these "sacred writings" are "able to instruct
salvation through faith in Christ Jesus," would suggest Christian
Scriptures as well.
26 The significance of this self-attestation of Scripture is obvious, for
if scriptural testimony is accepted in validating other doctrines, then
the testimony to itself is of the first rank of importance.
27 Boettner puts it succinctly: "In the minds of Christ and the apostles
there was an absolute identification between the text of the Old Testament
and the voice of the living God" (The Inspiration of Scriptures
[Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1937], p.31).
29 The word translated "oracles" above is logia. In
Greek literature a logion was a short saying originating from
a divinity, so in the New Testament signifies a divine utterance as
oracle of God.
30 According to Calvin, "Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear
evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their color, sweet and
bitter of their taste" (Institutes [Beveridge tr., Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957], Vol. I, Chap. 7, Sect. 2)
31 Clark Pinnock has put it well: "The moving of the Spirit accomplishes
more on behalf of biblical authority than all the arguments of conservative
evangelicals could" (Biblical Authority, ed. by Jack Rogers
[Waco: Word Books, 1977], pp. 72-73).
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Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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