[This post is part of the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]
This chapter, much like the last one, and all the ones I’ve read so far, really deserves a much fuller treatment. But again, Doctrine sets out to be concise as it can, and so this chapter probably could not be any shorter without losing something vital.
The questions it answers are:
- How does God reveal Himself?
- What are the Scriptures?
- How is Jesus the hero of the Bible? (this is a good way of putting it)
- Who wrote the Bible?
- What is the canon of Scripture?
- Why were some books not accepted as Scripture?
- Does Scripture contain errors and/or contradictions?
- Can I trust that my Bible is God’s word?
- Why is Scripture authoritative?
- Is the Bible sufficient or all I need for life with God?
- Why are there different translations of Scripture?
- How can we best interpret Scripture?
- How does our view of Scripture affect our life?
There is quite a lot packed into the answers of these questions. For those wanting a fuller treatment of the doctrine of revelation, I would recommend Cornelius Van Til’s Introduction to Systematic Theology. It covers most of the above extremely thoroughly, but is much heavier reading. The classic work is F.F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture, but one may want to consult a more update to collection of essays on the importance of Scripture. On the current discussion of inerrancy (the truthfulness of Scripture), one might want to check out G. K. Beale’s book on the topic.
For more in depth treatment of issues related to books included or not included in the Bible, I would recommend anything written by Darrell Bock, but the summary in Doctrine may be satisfactory to most people. Many of the issues covered there are relevant to our culture apologetically, either because of books like the Da Vinci Code or because in general, scholars like Bart Ehrman are making significant attempts to undermine the Bible’s accuracy, specifically in relation to the New Testament. Most of what he has said recently has been readily refuted by either Darrell Bock, or Daniel Wallace, the latter of whom publicly embarrassed Ehrman in a debate a couple of years ago, showing most of his claims to be either misinterpretations of the evidence available or outright distortions.
That being said, the issues I found with this chapter mostly related to the Old Testament, which seems to be emerging as a kind of weak spot, although only really so on technical issues. A glaring error is in the discussion of genre where Genesis 15 is classified as poetry, when from its Hebrew verbal structure, it is clearly intended by the author to be narrative. Driscoll may have felt it was poetic, and lacking an extensive knowledge of Hebrew, thought it fit better classified as poetry.
Breshears makes a valid admission about the numbers in the Old Testament, specifically those in Numbers, as being hard to interpret accurately. From my own study, I have found this to be a significant question that is still unresolved in OT studies. He then goes on to note his questions about Jericho (which from archaeological records was shown to be uninhabited from 1600-1200BC) stating the Bible says that the walls came down around 1440 BC. The problem with this is the Bible does not plainly state that was the exact date, and we know now from other archaeological evidence concerning the other cities the Israelites conquered, it is more likely that Jericho fell around 1200 BC. I can devote a post to this if I need to, but I felt this whole section was better left out of the book itself, as it was mainly illustrative, but the scholarly discussion has since made its conclusion invalid.
Other than the above issue, this is an excellent chapter concisely articulating an orthodox view of Scripture. The section on Bible translations is very helpful to hung up on the differences, and which one would be better suited for personal study. Sadly, they leave the NET Bible out of the options mentioned, but that is probably because it has not yet gained wide appeal. It is basically a hybrid, giving a modern English equivalent in the actual text, and a the literal word for word in the footnotes, when the main text departs significantly. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, but only really worth the money if you value text critical footnotes and/or know Greek and Hebrew.
In the end, this chapter would be helpful for anyone who is starting to work through the above questions, and can help to guide the discussion and generate avenues for further research and study.