top of page

23. God breathed the Bible

Christian theology in a Sudanese context. God's word written down and published.

Muslims believe the Qur’an was dictated by Allah, through the angel Gabriel.Muhammad learned and recited precisely what he heard. He made no other contribution of his own to it. Any good electronic recording machine would have made an identical text by listening to the sounds he heard (or understood), and then having the words written down. It was all done in the Arabic language. Muslims believe the Arabic Qur’an today to be an exact, word-by-word, reproduction of this dictation. They believe the Qur’an is the earthly edition of this heavenly book. The activity of God’s ‘sending down’ (Arabic – tanzil) the first few verses of the Qur’an, to the lowest of the heavens, during ‘Laylat al-Qadr’– the ‘night of power’, is celebrated towards the end of Ramadan each year. (Many Muslims have the idea that somehow the entire Qur’an was sent down at one time on that night). Orthodox Islamic teaching is that later, over some 23 years, the Qur’an was communicated by Gabriel to Muhammad using ‘divine inspiration’ (Arabic – wahy). This happened bit by bit, and in no particular order. The Qur’an 42:51 gives two brief descriptions of ‘divine inspiration’: Allah speaking from behind a veil to someone, or Allah sending a messenger-angel to reveal his will. Various Hadith literature, or traditions, list the ringing of bells, physical stiffness and concentration, sweating even on a cold day, dreams, visions while awake, and transportation into highest heaven, as all parts of the process which allowed Muhammad to receive and recite the Qur’an. Muslims take the Qur’an in letter and in spirit as the word of Allah.

I believe the phrase “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), to mean that God breathed out, over and through the human authors of our Bibles. God’s influence moved these people to write what He wanted. Yet, at the same time, every author’s characteristic style of writing, including his or her own personality and understanding, was preserved. The Bible was not a mindless receiving of dictation, but an actively stimulated and superintended outcome of human research and thinking under God. (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3). God used His people chosen for this work, in His own way. There is a parallel to consider in how Jesus Christ Himself came to be born. It was definitely God’s will to begin with. He called a willing person, in this case, Mary. God the Holy Spirit ‘came upon’ or ‘overshadowed’ her. This cooperation resulted in the perfect Son of God being born (Luke 1:34,35). Jesus is the living word. His conception was the result of something quite unique. But He was born in a normal, human way. In a similar way, the Bible is God’s word written. God the Holy Spirit has overshadowed it from start to finish. The people, the documents, the words, the ideas and the means of writing were all quite usual. But the resulting words and message remain unique. Since God is omnipotent (see chapter 13), He is certainly more than able to give us His word this way. Someone may ask: ‘Did God write the Bible, or did people?’The correct answer is that “both God and people wrote the Bible”. Imagine you sent your child to the suk to buy bread for a family event. You gave him a thousand pounds to buy a bag with 8-10 pieces in it. Your son physically went along the street to market. He smiled happily at the man in the white jellabiya behind the table, and asked him politely for bread. He looked at the sweets in a box nearby, but he did not buy any. Ask yourself this question: ‘Who bought the bread?’ The shopkeeper met your son and he saw your son’s personality and he recognised the child’s desires towards sweets. Your son handed over your money and returned home with the bag of bread. How do you answer the question: ‘who bought the bread?’ It was your idea, your money and it was at your request. But your son actually carried out your wishes, in his own free way. He went to the shop. He met the man selling. The result was the bread arrived at home for the meal. So, you both bought the bread and achieved your desired result! What we believe about the Bible is very important. If we believe it only to be the product of men’s work, we will share it and preach it as just one book among many others. It is much better to believe it to be trustworthy, divine-given revelation of God through men. Then we will prove its power in our study and our ministry. God uses His word (Isaiah 55:10,11).

Thinking it through. (a). What are the differences between the way the Qur’an was ‘dictated’, and the way the Bible was ‘God-breathed’? (b). Why is it important to believe the Bible to be the word of God?

(c). Which other attributes of God help you to accept the Bible as God’s word?

bottom of page