The Bible claims to be the divinely inspired Word of God. Is there any support for this affirmation?
Evidence for the inspiration of the Bible falls into two general categories. Some evidences are classified as external in nature, while others are viewed as internal.
For instance, artifacts from the field of archaeology that corroborate the historical statements of the Scriptures are external evidence.
An example would be the discovery of the Nabonidus cylinder, which demonstrated that Belshazzar (Dan. 5) was an actual Babylonian king and not a mythical character as some early critics contended (Wiseman, 1980, 1: 1 83 ).
On the other hand, certain proofs of biblical inspiration are internal in character. They are a part of the fabric of the book itself.
These are self-authenticating phenomena within the Bible that demonstrate it must have been orchestrated by a superintending Mind. One such evidence of inspiration is the incredible unity that is characteristic of the Bible.
Why the Unity of the Bible Is Relevant
Why is the unity of the Bible a relevant proof of its inspiration?
To appreciate the marvelous unity that pervades the Bible, we first must understand several important facts about the Bible.
This ancient book was written by approximately forty different men in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Its composition occurred over a vast span of time. From the Pentateuch (possibly the book of Job was penned even earlier) to the final completion of Revelation, some sixteen hundred years of history were involved.
The holy writings came out of a variety of cultural backgrounds. The documents were penned by a diverse group of authors (shepherds, fishermen, professional men, and scholars). In view of this fact, we might expect the final form of the Scriptures to be a tangled mishmash of divergent subjects quite often marred by conflict, lack of continuity and contradiction.
This is hardly the case. In fact, the Bible is characterized by such an astounding harmony and consistent flow that it utterly defies any naturalistic explanation.
Unquestionably, there was a unifying Source behind its composition.
It is as though the Bible were a magnificent symphony that clearly was orchestrated by a single Master Conductor.
Let us consider several lines of evidence which support the concept that the Scriptures could have come only from God.
The Thematic Unity of the Bible
There is a unity of theme that saturates the divine oracles.
The Bible is the story of one problem — sin — with one solution, Jesus Christ (Geisler & Nix, 194).
In Genesis, Christ is the promised seed (Gen. 3:15). In Exodus, he is the Passover lamb (Ex. 12). In Leviticus, he is typified by the holy sacrifices (Lev. 1-5 ). In Numbers, he is the brazen serpent (Num. 21). We could continue throughout the Old Testament documents. Christ is found either directly or indirectly in every book of the Bible.
The redemptive thread that runs through the Scriptures can be illustrated in a marvelous fashion by comparing Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of the canon.
In Genesis, the origin of the heavens and Earth is revealed (Gen. 1:1 ). In Revelation, the consummation of earthly affairs is effected, and the old order is replaced by a “new heaven and earth” (i.e., heaven itself), spiritual in nature.
The deceptive Satan, who seduced our original parents (Gen. 3:1ff) is to be cast into hell where he deceives no more (Rev. 20:10).
Man, who originally was perfect but disobeyed into sin (Gen. 3:6) is by virtue of his obedience in Christ granted the opportunity to become perfect again (Rev. 7:14; 22:14).
All of this is made possible, of course, by the seed of woman (Gen. 3:15), the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). By his sacrifice (Gen. 4:4), he became the enthroned Lamb (Rev. 21:4).
Thus, the sorrow of Eden (Gen. 3:16) will be transformed into the joy of heaven (Rev. 21:4). The tree of life from which our early parents were separated (Gen. 3:22-24) will be our glad possession once more (Rev. 22:14).
Appropriately, there is a remarkable concurrence of theme between Genesis and Revelation.
The Unified Plan of Redemption Developed Throughout the Bible
The Bible also has a unified plan of development. Consider the following.
In Genesis, there is the record of humanity’s pristine origin and our tragic fall into a sinful state.
Moreover, there is also the initial suggestion that a benevolent God was beginning to unfold a plan for the remedy of this disaster (Gen. 3:15). A specific family line (i.e., the Hebrew nation) was selected to accomplish this task (Gen. 12:1ff; 22:18).
But man needed to learn precisely what is “sin.” How was this concept to be defined?
In response to that need, a written law was given. The books of Exodus through Deuteronomy record the giving of the law to Moses. This set of ordinances was designed to define sin. The law illuminated human rebellion in all of its horrible ugliness (Rom. 7:7, 13; Gal. 3:19).
The historical books of the Old Testament reveal humanity’s inability to keep a law system perfectly (Gal. 3:10). The history of Israel underscored humanity’s need for a justifier. Someone was needed to do for man what he is incapable of doing for himself.
The prophets of the Old Testament herald the coming of that Savior (Lk. 24:44). More than 300 prophecies focus upon the promised Messiah.
After four silent centuries (the inter-biblical era), the Gospel writers inform us that the Justifier—Jesus of Nazareth—has come. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John carefully document the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God (Jn. 20:30-31).
The evidence for the divine mission of Christ is overwhelming.
The book of Acts demonstrates how first-century men and women obtained Jehovah’s justifying grace. It is an inspired manual on how to become a Christian. It is a historical record of how the church of Christ was established in Jerusalem and flourished throughout the Roman empire.
Subsequently, various epistles to churches and individuals instructed saints on how to grow toward spiritual maturity.
Finally, the book of Revelation with vivid symbols illustrates the ultimate and complete triumph of the cause of God over all hostile forces.
Without question, the Bible contains a detailed continuity of plan.
The Unity of Doctrine Within the Bible
The Bible likewise is characterized by doctrinal unity.
And just what is “doctrinal unity”? By this we mean that the fundamental elements of its teaching system are harmonious.
There is, of course, the development of certain theological themes within the sacred volume (e.g., the concept of immortality’ cf. Job 14:14; 2 Tim. 1:10). But there is no discord.
Here’s something truly astounding. The biblical writers didn’t hesitate to criticize each other for personal flaws of conduct (see Gal. 2:11ff.). And even though one author might concede that another writer’s production was difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16), never did the inspired writers critique, criticize, or attempt to refute the doctrinal arguments of their inspired companions.
Contrast this with the conduct of theologians our age, of any age!
Note these brief examples of doctrinal harmony.
The Scriptures affirm that there is but one God (Deut. 6:4; Jas. 2:19). By “one God” the biblical writers mean there is but a solitary divine nature. Yet, that divine essence is possessed by three distinct personalities. They assumed different roles in the scheme of redemption. They are identified in the New Testament as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1-2, 2:6; Mt. 28:19; Jn. 1:1; 2 Cor. 13:14).
Here’s another doctrinal truth. The Universe is neither eternal nor self-created. Rather, it was brought into existence by Deity (Gen. 1:1; Psa. 33:6-9; Jn. 1:1-3; Heb. 11:3).
Another critical doctrine is that man is more than mere matter. In addition to flesh, he has a higher nature created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26; Eccl. 12:7; Dan. 7:15; Mt. 10:28; 1 Thess. 5:23 ).
Then there is the doctrine of blood. Throughout the Book of books, blood is required for the atonement of sin (Lev. 17:11; Mt. 26:28; Heb. 9:22; Rev. 7:14).
Contrast the doctrinal harmony of the Bible with modern works that allege inspiration, but which lack supporting evidence for the claim.
For instance, the literature of Mormonism argues that polygamy is whoredom and sinful (Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:2-7; 3:5; 1:15; 2:23-24; Mosiah 11:2).
But plural marriages are elsewhere described as part of a new and everlasting covenant that may be rejected only upon the penalty of damnation (Doctrine and Covenants, 132:3-4).
What a web of confusion!
The Factual Harmony of Scripture
Though the erudite works of men may be produced ever so skillfully, they are bound to incorporate factual mistakes that flaw the unity of the documents. Genuine factual disharmony, of course, reveals the fact that a work is strictly human in origin.
If, therefore, the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, we have the right to expect that it not be marred by contradictions, because Deity is not the author of confusion or contradiction. His word can only be truth (1 Cor. 14:33; John 17:17).
In the third century A.D., there lived a Syrian philosopher named Malchus Porphyry. Jerome once characterized him as “a rabid dog against Christ.”
Porphyry wrote fifteen books against Christianity. One of these was devoted entirely to an assemblage of “contradictions” that the infidel claimed he had detected in the Scriptures.
The arguments of Porphyry and his spiritual descendants have been answered scores of times by devoted apologists across the centuries (see Jackson, II:51-57). The fact of the matter is, the Bible reveals remarkable harmony in countless details. In fact, it has a consistency so precise that it could not have been contrived.
We might expect that the Scriptures would show a general unity. But broad and obvious agreements would prove little. Even forgers are be able to effect such concurrence.
But the Bible is characterized by an infinite variety of minute details so obviously uncontrived that they demonstrate a guiding Force that was absolutely consistent. Such is a subtle, though convincing, evidence of divine inspiration.
In 1790, William Paley, the celebrated Anglican scholar, authored his famous volume Horae Paulinae (Hours With Paul). In this remarkable book, Paley demonstrated an amazing array of “undesigned coincidences” between the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul that argue for the credibility of the Christian revelation. Paley said:
These coincidences which are often incorporated or intertwined in references and allusions, in which no art can be discovered, and no contrivance traced, furnish numerous proofs of the truth of both these works, and consequently that of Christianity" (1839, xvi).
In 1847, J. J. Blunt of Cambridge University released a companion volume titled, Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings Both of the Old Testament and New Testament. In this scholarly treatise, professor Blunt argued that both Testaments contain numerous examples of “consistency without contrivance” that support the Scriptures’ claim of a unified origin from a supernatural source, namely God (1884, p. vii).
The following examples illustrate the type of incidental, harmonious material of which I am speaking.
As a lad of only seventeen years, Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery. Due to a false accusation lodged against him by a spurned woman, that godly young man ended up being cast into prison. Joseph was confined in the place where the king’s captives were bound (Gen. 39:20). Note the term, “bound.”
Four centuries later, a completely different author declared of Joseph,
“His feet they hurt with fetters:
He was laid in chains of iron” (Psa. 105:18).
Not once in the record of Scripture do the authors slip on even the smallest detail.
Another example involves the time of year when the Israelites left Egypt.
When Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrew captives, Jehovah sent a series of plagues on the Egyptians. One of the plagues was a devastating hail storm that destroyed the blooming flax in the fields (Ex. 9:31). Subsequently, the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, and they journeyed into the wilderness of Sinai. But because of their lack of faith, they were forced to wander for four difficult decades in that barren landscape.
Finally, though, the younger generation entered Canaan. Their arrival in the Promised Land was exactly forty years from the time they left Egypt (Josh. 4:19). In fact, their entrance into Canaan coincided shortly after the anniversary of the eighth plague that destroyed the blooming flax.
Now, the book of Joshua mentions that their entrance into Canaan was near harvest time (Josh. 3:15). When spies were sent to spy out Jericho, they were concealed by Rahab under drying stalks of flax on the rooftop of her house (Josh. 2:6).
All of these seemingly insignificant details fit together, hand in a glove. They are marvelous examples of undesigned harmony.
The New Testament is no less remarkable for its uncanny unity. For example, when Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand, the inspired Mark records that the Lord seated his auditors upon the “green grass” (Mk. 6:39). This is entirely in agreement with John’s reference to the fact that this event occurred near the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This, of course, is in the spring—exactly when the grass is green in Palestine.
In the last chapter of Acts, Luke described Paul’s two-year Roman imprisonment and quoted the apostle as proclaiming: “because of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20). During this incarceration, Paul penned four epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul alluded to his “chain” (Eph. 6:20). In Philippians, he referred to his “bonds” (Phil. 1:7, 13-14, 17). Also see the references to his “bonds” in Colossians 4:3 and Philemon 10, 13.
In his final letter to Timothy, Paul reminded his young companion that “from a babe you have known the sacred writings which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The reference to the “sacred writings,” of course, is an allusion to the Old Testament Scriptures.
Since Timothy had known the Old Testament writings from his earliest days, we would assume that his background was Jewish. Not surprisingly, then, we learn from the book of Acts that Timothy was “the son of a Jewess that believed but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1 ).
It is worthy of further notice that when Paul commended Timothy for his faith, he alluded to the spirituality of both the lad’s mother and grandmother, yet made no mention of the piety of Timothy’s father (2 Tim. 1:5).
While it is true that there is an extraordinary unity within the writings of the Old Testament, and within the documents of the New Testament, the same sort of harmony exists between both the Old and New Testaments.
For instance, when Jesus died, his disciples prepared his body for burial by embalming it. John declared that the Jewish ruler Nicodemus brought spices—myrrh and aloes—about a hundred pounds for this task (Jn. 19:39). We thus conclude that it required large quantities of these spices for the embalming process.
It is a recognized historical fact that the Egyptians were renowned for their skill in embalming. When Jacob died, the physicians of Egypt embalmed him (Gen. 50:2). Likewise, Joseph was embalmed when he expired (Gen. 50:26).
One would expect, therefore, that the Egyptians would require vast quantities of spices like myrrh for their embalming enterprise. Significantly, we learn from the Old Testament that myrrh was imported by camel caravans into Egypt (Gen. 37:25)!
Again we must stress this point. The Bible critic is likely to trivialize these examples as they are isolated from one another.
When, however, literally hundreds and hundreds of these incidental details are observed to mesh perfectly, one begins to suspect that these undesigned coincidences from the human vantage point become very obvious cases of divinely designed harmony. They are tiny footprints that lead only to the conclusion that God was the guiding force behind the composition of the Sacred Scriptures.
The argument that emphasizes the unity of the Bible as evidence for its inspiration is powerful indeed.
Employ this form of reasoning as a tool to lead our friends to have confidence in the Scriptures as the Word of God, the source of information pertaining to life everlasting.