Bailey starts by reminding us that we each have our assumptions, examined or not, about what the Bible is and where it came from. . . Bailey suggests that our understanding of biblical inspiration can be loosely grouped in five categories:
- Mechanical inspiration views the author as a “human tape recorder.”
- Verbal inspiration allows that the human personality of the author is involved but God inspired the precise words.
- Another view is that the ideas were inspired but not necessarily the precise words.
- Some would argue for an inspiration in much the same sense a poet is inspired but at a higher level.
- Others would so they Bible is inspired but no more so then Shakespeare or other great writers.
[Note: There are serious questions about the Jamnia theory which Bailey presents regarding the recognition of the OT canon..]
But what does it mean to say that these books have authority? Bailey writes that early in the process the Church asked, “What are the books the apostles have passed down to us?” Notice this is not the same as asking “Which books did the apostles write?” The question was one of apostolic endorsement and determining which ones have broad acceptance across the Church community. Furthermore, the driving agenda was not “What can we include?” but “What can we throw out?” Bailey suggests these were the driving questions for at least the first 250 years after Christ.
. . . The books of the New Testament have authority because they spoke to the hearts of early Christians across a broad range of communities (just as they do today.) There was no rush to create an authoritative list. Over time, the authenticity of the books made themselves known to the Christian community. Rather than imposing a list of official books in the fourth century, the fourth century can be seen as the culmination of a slow brew process.
Bailey’s central point of emphasis is that the Bible was not dictated by angels as illustrated on the front of ancient manuscripts. Rather, God moved through a community to create the written word that became scripture. By looking at Luke we can get an imperfect glimpse of some of the process involved.
These three posts give us some sense of the nature of the book we are dealing with when we come to the Bible. It should inform our understanding as we read scripture. But as we interpret the Bible there are any number of errors we can make. Bailey has identified seven sins of biblical interpretation. We will turn to those next.