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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Canonical Formation, God's Supremacy, & Why You Should Know About Both

 Growing up in the church, I was totally familiar with the Bible. Not to brag or anything, but I was a six time winner at the state level for Bible Drills. My mother, a huge memorizer of Scripture, helped me to memorize passages and always quoted Bible verses to me for basically every situation (much to my dismay in the moment). 

I remember the first time I heard about these foreign books called "gnostic gospels" in Sunday School. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. How on earth could there be other books (books that weren't in my cute, catchy song with all the books of the Bible) that claimed to be a part of the Bible?! How come they weren't included in my Teen Adventures Study Bible? Why does my Catholic friend's Bible look different than mine? I felt like someone had lied to me for a very long time. I was super curious about how the books of the Bible were decided on and picked up snippets here and there (mostly later in high school) about the topic. 

(Enter college) Somehow I wound up being enrolled in three religion classes here at UNC last semester. Due to my crazy load of religion classes and my interest in the subject I ended up declaring a "Religious Studies" minor. In all of my classes I learned about this theory called the Documentary Hypothesis. Basically, the hypothesis says that multiple sources (not necessarily authors) were used to compose the Old Testament (aka the Hebrew Bible if we're being politically correct, which, mind you, all my professors are) based on the various names and characteristics of God used in the text. When I heard about this hypothesis, I had a flashback to my Sunday School days and felt the same queasy stomach. Didn't Moses write the first five books of the Bible? Obviously Solomon wrote Proverbs - he was so wise! If there are multiple sources for the Bible, does it lose some of its inerrancy? The list of questions goes on...

Moral of the story is I was pretty confused and simultaneously extremely interested about a) who in the world wrote the Bible and b) how the various books were all brought together into one coherent canon.

Yes, I knew ultimately God wrote the Bible, but who did he use as his instrument to do so? And how did they know how to assemble the books?

*SLAP* It doesn't matter. If what the Bible says really is true (and I believe it is), then God is supreme over everything for all time! If God can literally speak the world into existence and raise from the dead, then I'm pretty positive he could orchestrate the writing of a book. One theologian put God's supremacy into perspective by saying, “There is not an inch of any sphere of life over which Jesus Christ does not say, ‘Mine!’”

One addendum (of many) is of course that parts of the Bible do state that they're written by a specific author or at least spoken by a specific prophet and later recorded. When the Bible does state such explicit authorship, I think we have to, as Christians, submit to that. Granted, there are parts of the Bible whose authorship is very much still disputed and we can totally take part in speculation and academic discussion, but at the end of the day, it honestly doesn't matter what mere men wrote the Bible because ultimately God did.

As followers of Christ, we are called, in light of the Gospel, to be knowledgeable of and obedient to God's Word. May we never see the Bible in such a paralyzingly academic lens that it becomes cold and dissectable, but may we allow the truth of God's Word bring warmth to our fleshly hearts and lead us to worship the supreme creator of the universe.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:14-17

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