Do not Add to His Words: The Uniqueness of Scripture31 January 2015
Joel Kalvesmaki is Editor in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, overseeing the production of Dumbarton Oaks’ flagship Byzantine publications, print and digital. He is active in the digital humanities and his research covers intellectual history in Late Antiquity, with a focus on ancient number symbolism and the writings of Evagrius Ponticus.
Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you.
(Gospel of Thomas 5)
Josh McDowell, in the opening chapter of Evidence that Demands a Verdict, begins by declaring the Bible to be completely unlike anything else written in human history. The reason why? Continuity, circulation, translation, survival, teachings, and influence. All of these factors, as implied by the title of McDowell’s book, are the self-evident justification for Scripture. Anyone who simply looks at the facts objectively must concur.
McDowell takes the same approach to the canon, presenting it as being objectively testable. While confessing ignorance to what the criteria of the early Church was, he proceeds to establish a list of what most Evangelicals think the Fathers used to decide on the canon. “Is it authoritative….prophetic….authentic….dynamic? Was it received, collected, read and used…?” (McDowell, 29)
This is very much in harmony with what I was always taught about the Bible. First, there is an internal harmony running through its pages, uniting it from first to last. Nothing could compare with this collection of the writings. Men from various cultures, occupations, and eras, all led by the Spirit, wrote whatever the Holy Spirit inspired within them. Second, implied by our attitude, the canon we held was the same one treasured by the Church immediately following the Apostles.
Knowing this gave me great confidence in facing an antagonistic, skeptical world. The Bible is the Word of God. It is the universal authority for all humanity, its message extending across space and time. It is self-sufficient, an absolute standard, with the power to speak into the human condition to call all mankind to repentance. Dr. Young, Professor of Westminster Theological Seminary expresses this sentiment well:
The Bible is truly the Word of God. He is the final and the ultimate Author; the Bible comes from God. Without Him there could have been no Bible. Without men, however, there could have been a Bible. God could have given us His Word in some other manner than that which He actually did choose….While the human authors were true authors, nevertheless they were not the originators of the words and the thoughts that are found in the Bible. (Bright, 189)