Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

processing the bible



You would think that Christians who rely so much on the Bible would be a lot more curious about how we came to have this book. I don't know about you, but I am not sure I have ever heard more than a passing comment out of any preacher on this subject. Within orthodox Christianity, the Bible is always just a given, the tangible proof of all the church practices and teaches.


In our culture that generally suffices because we have been conditioned to see the Bible as valid divine instruction. However, for a large portion of humanity that is not true. Naturally, that raises a substantial barrier to the mission of the church, to convert the world to Christianity.


I am no expert on the origin of the Bible, but I sometimes wonder if anyone currently alive really knows the process that brought it to our attention. It is generally understood that the individual books of the Bible were written down over a long period of time by a number of different individuals. The earliest books were supposedly preserved and handed down by the Jews. Who among the Jews determined which books needed preservation and how those books were authenticated has never been addressed, to my knowledge.


The authorship of the various books has never been established concretely but tradition has assigned authorship to various Bible characters. In several cases the traditional author apparently relates historical facts which occurred long before they were born, raising the question of how those historical facts were known by the writer.


Later New Testament books were likewise written by various individuals who identities are largely debated. The doctrinal issues resulting from those books have been the subject of contentious discussions throughout the history of Christianity, reflecting the fact that this complex compendium of books is rarely unquestionable in its message.


Some have likely heard that the assembling of the various books of the current day Bible did not happen until around the 4th century. At that time certain men were selected to decide which of the competing books would be included and which rejected. I wonder what was the basis for inclusion, or for choosing who would decide to include.


Then for the next 1000 years or so the Bible was essentially available only to the Catholic church and certain scholars. Of course, the average man couldn't read anyway, so what good was a Bible to the illiterate. Eventually, after the invention of the printing press, the Bible came to be translated into the various common languages of the day, most often despite the fierce objections of the church. As literacy became more prominent among the masses, the Bible was finally available to the average citizen, some 1500-1800 years after Christ and the advent of Christianity.


Even if one is totally ignorant of the details of the origin of the Bible in its current form, most would recognize that the book didn't just fall from the sky with the divine signature on the cover. If there was time period after Christ in which the world did not have the Bible as we know it, what was the spiritual state of mankind and the church during that early period. What was the source of divine guidance before the completed scriptures, and how did the Bible come to displace that earlier guidance.


Most people in the church, including its ministers, treat the Bible as if it has existed from the earliest mention of the church. The reality is that, even in the New Testament books, any reference to the scriptures did not include what we have as the complete NT because the books had not all been written yet.


No one really honors and respects the Bible by simply ignoring the process by which we got it. Simply insisting that God oversaw the human process to insure that mankind received a complete and valid divine revelation eventually, besides being a mere assertion, does not deal with the larger issues of interpretation and application.


Ultimately the importance of the Bible depends on its impact on human behaviors and attitudes and our interpersonal relationships. Those impacts can be observed and verified historically, either validating what we glean from the book or causing us to re-interpret or look elsewhere for divine guidance.