FROM GOD TO US
Chain of Communication
Dan R. Smedra
God, the Creator of the Universe, has chosen to communicate with
mankind. However, we might as well face an important fact up front,
while God is perfectly just in His actions, He is not egalitarian in His
ways. So He says...
I will have mercy on whom I have
mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
But God chose the foolish things of
the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to
shame the strong. 1 Corinthians 1:27
Am I not allowed to do what I choose
with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? Matthew
God is perfectly just and fair. But He is under no
obligation to act according to our definition or
sense of either "justice"
or "fairness." In Isaiah chapter 55, He says:
Give ear and come to me; hear me,
that your soul may live. (v3)
For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (v8)
As the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your
Purple text are direct quotations from the
Bible with reference to book, chapter, and verse.
The word "Bible" comes from the Greek "bibla" meaning
"books." The sixty-six books of the Bible are unique. They
alone are God's
exclusive revelation to mankind. An analysis of all other so-called
sacred writings demonstrates that they fall far short of the matchless
character of the Bible.
This article seeks to provide short and concise
explanations for six key biblical concepts:
These are the
"links" in the chain of God's communication to us.
Being sovereign, God is entirely
effective in His efforts to communicate. This is
because His activity is supernaturally initiated as well as supernaturally
sustained. The fact that mankind is sinful, fallible, or prone to
error are no serious obstacle to God.
By contrast, religious liberalism believes God is
helpless in the face of man's sinfulness. Each and every link in the
chain of communication, mentioned above, is vulnerable to failure.
Thus, mankind is doomed to uncertainty, doubt, and a hopeless groping in the
darkness of human speculation. Through their institutionalized
skepticism, they hope is for non-accountability.
Because many men and women approach the Bible independently and
with a sense of their own strength (as in opening a can with a can opener),
they do wrestle with its meaning and fail to interpret Scripture accurately,
some even to the point of their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
However, the failure is theirs, not God's.
As used in this article, "revelation" denotes an intelligible communication.(1) Revelation is an objective, propositional disclosure
by God. Revelation originates with God and is largely dependent on supernatural agencies and means.
It is the divine act of communicating to man what otherwise man would not
know...a supernatural interposition into the affairs of men.(2)
God, who at
various times and in different ways spoke in times past to the [Jewish] fathers by
the [Jewish] prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son... Hebrews
In the ancient past, God spoke via visions, dreams,
and sometimes with an audible voice. Later, God the Son, the Living Word,
walked and talked among mankind.
God has also spoken by His exclusive, inerrant Word, the sixty-six books of
the Bible. With its completion, the Bible became the means by which God speaks to us today.
By means of the
indwelling Holy Spirit and the written Word, God brings us to know and
experience the Living Word--the Lord Jesus Christ.
The subjects of God's revelation are many, but
limited to what He in His wisdom wants us to know about Himself,
ourselves, and the sphere of reality which surrounds us. Despite
the fraudulent claim of Pentecostal/charismatics, New Age devotees, and
varieties of mystics, God is not giving any new revelation today.
Those who claim otherwise are engaged in deceptive ploys.
Inspiration is the supernatural, direct divine influence which secures an accurate transference
of truth in language which others may understand. It is that
controlling influence which God exerted
over the human authors
who penned the original autographs of Scripture. God is able to produce a book
which is verbally accurate, the precise statement in every particular of His own
thought. Inspiration is the means by which revelation becomes
For if you believed
Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not
believe his writings, how will you believe My words? John 5:46, 47.
All Scripture is
God-breathed [inspired] and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...
2 Timothy 3:16
For prophecy never had its origin
in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried
along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21.
Inspiration uniquely endows the Bible with veracity
and authority. The nature of inspiration is verbal, plenary,
and includes dual authorship (human and Divine). By verbal
inspiration is meant that, in the original writings, the Spirit guided in the
choice of the words used. However, the human authorship was respected to
the extent that the writers' characteristics are preserved and their style and
vocabulary are employed, but without the intrusion of error. By plenary
inspiration is meant that the accuracy which the verbal inspiration secures,
is extended to every portion of the Bible so that it is in all its parts both
as to truth and final as to divine authority. Dual
authorship means that on the divine side, the Scriptures are the Word of God in the
sense that they originate with Him and are the expression of His mind alone;
and, on the human side, certain men have been chosen of God for the high honor
and responsibility of receiving God's Word and transcribing it into written
Only the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
manuscripts (sixty-six autographs) were uniquely inspired. These original
autographs, which are no longer in existence, were inerrant--perfect
in every respect. However, inspiration, veracity, and authority
does not automatically extend to every copy and translation of the
Bible. So how can we have confidence that our vernacular-language copies
closely match the original autographs? Good question. And here's the
basic answer. The originals were meticulously copied
thousands of times and archived. Through comparative analysis of
these copies, highly accurate replicas of the originals were created by
skilled, ancient-language linguists.
A brief example will suffice. Regarding the inerrancy of our
present-day New Testament text, the late Greek scholar Dr. Kenneth Wuest
In recent times, the Chester Beatty
manuscripts have been discovered, which are dated between A.D.
200-300. The original manuscripts of the NT were still in existence
A.D. 200, according to Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers. But we
can go still further back and forge an unbroken chain to the
original documents which left the pens of the Bible writers, in the
Writings of the Apostolic and Church Fathers, which were
commentaries based upon the NT manuscripts, and which contain the
entire NT in quotations, with the exception of John 8:1–11 which was
stricken out of some early texts because of a mistaken fear that its
contents would encourage adultery. Thus, we have an unbroken link
between our present Greek printed texts and the original
hand-written manuscripts. The errors which crept in during 1,500
years of copying by hand have all been eliminated and a correct text
formed, so that scholars tell us that 999 words out of every
thousand in our present Greek text are the same as those of the
original autographs, and that the thousandth word concerning which
there may be some difference of opinion is of so little consequence,
that it does not affect any historical fact or doctrine. These
textual experts had a vast amount of material with which to work:
4,000 Greek manuscripts, 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate, and
2,000 copies of the NT in other languages--14,000 available sources
from which to reconstruct a correct text.
For those wanting to dig deeper into the details,
obtain and read:
Canonicity is the process by which the sixty-six
original autographs were identified as divinely inspired.
The concept that certain sacred writings were authoritative,
while others were not, extends from the time of Moses. The term
"canon" means ruler or measuring rod--a standard.
Historically, the word has been used in both a passive and active
sense. Passively, canon means the rule or standard by which a
writing is judged to be inspired and thus authoritative. In the
active sense, the Bible is the canon by which all else is measured
and judged. The development of the canon of Scripture is detailed
and complex, but our current goal is brevity.
Canonicity is the inherent status that results from an ancient
text being inspired by God. Canonicity is discovered
by men of God who evaluate the text based on strict criteria. The
people of God do not determine canonicity; God imparts the status
of canonicity through inspiration. The people of God have
played a crucial role in the process of canonization through the
centuries, albeit not a determinative one.(3)
The Jewish community stored the OT canon beside the
ark of the covenant--a holy place, and by tradition mandated any
undergo a special ceremonial cleansing. OT manuscripts were
consider canonical if they were written by a genuine Jewish Prophet--an
authenticated spokesman of God who participated in the OT prophetic
succession. By law, false prophets were put to death (Deuteronomy
13). Only the books from Moses to Malachi met these
criteria, being confirmed by Jesus Christ himself. OT canonicity
was not based on: age of the manuscript, the fact that it was
written in the Hebrew language, that it agreed with the Torah (Genesis
to Deuteronomy), or that it possessed religious value.
The five basic criteria making up the discovery process are: 1) is it inspired--does it claim to be from God?
2) is it prophetic--was it written by an acknowledged spokesman for God?
3) is it authentic--does it tell the truth about God, man, etc? 4)
is it dynamic--does it have life-transforming powers from God? and
5) was the book received or accepted by the people of God for whom it was
originally written as being from God? Apocryphal and other
religious writings do not meet the criteria for being
discovered/identified as canonical. Contrary to the claim of some,
no official committee or council "canonized" the Bible.
Further detail is available in:
Thy Word is Truth and
From God to Us.
As we learned earlier, the original autographs were
meticulously copied and archived. By comparative analysis of these
copies, highly accurate replicas of the originals were created by
skilled, ancient-language linguists. Using these documents as their source, skilled translators convert Scripture from
the original languages to other extant tongues. The process of
translation is both science and art, and the translator brings many
tools to the
In general, there are several approaches to
translation. A translation is "merely the rendering of a given
literary composition from one language into another." "A literal
translation is an attempt to express, as far as possible, the exact
meaning of the original words of the text being translated. It is
a "word-for-word" rendering of the text."
By contrast, a paraphrase is "a 'free' or 'loose'
translation. It attempts to communicate 'ideas' rather than the
word-for-word autograph. Hence, it is more of an interpretation than is a
The following chart summarizes the spectrum of
translation approaches used in producing several popular English Bibles,
with the New International Version (NIV) as a center point. No
endorsement is inferred by use of the chart.
The more recent translations, including the
English Standard Version - ESV,
(which doesn't appear on the chart) and the
NASB, are word-for-word
Opinions run strong regarding which translation is
"the best" and which is the "the worst." In brief, we use the NIV, ESV, and
NKJV for general reading, and add the [Greek] Interlinear, Revised KJV,
updated NASB, ASV, and
Darby for comparative study. We hold to the standard of word-for-word
translations as primary, but also acknowledge their limitations in
failing to capture differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current
literary English and the original languages.
While the original 1611 Authorized Version (aka "King James",
which is technically not a version, but the fifth revision of William Tyndale's* 1526
translation) may have a regal sound when read, the meaning of many portions
of the King James Bible is lost upon readers unfamiliar with the vernacular of the
16th and early 17th century Elizabethan English culture. Based on
my nearly four decades as a Christian, I often wonder whether the KJV's popularity
today is due to the fact
that some people would rather not know the actual meaning of the text!
* In 1456, Johannes Gutenberg produced the first
printed Bible, which was in Latin. The English Bible you likely
hold in your hands cost
William Tyndale his life! In 1535, Tyndale was arrested in
Antwerp by papal (Catholic) authorities and imprisoned near Brussels.
The following year he was executed for his translation work.
A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in
Roman Catholic dogma once taunted Tyndale with the statement, “We
are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s.”
Tyndale was infuriated by such Roman Catholic heresies, and he
replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life
ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know
more of the scriptures than you!”
Again, the two books previously mentioned provide
Here is the most important link in the chain! Illumination is the supernatural
influence or ministry of the Holy Spirit which
enables all who are in right relation with God to understand the Scriptures.
Because of the Fall, mankind is spiritually dead towards God and crippled
by a unique spiritual blindness. This form of blindness
is not offset by general revelation or so-called common
grace. Neither is it negated through the use of mind-expanding drugs, meditation,
centering, or any facet of Eastern or Western mysticism. Mankind
is unable to cognitively grasp
or accurately understand spiritual realities without the non-inclusive supernatural intervention
of God the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2 we read:
The man without the Spirit does
not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are
spiritually discerned. (v14)
...but God has revealed
it to us by His Spirit. (v10)
received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may
understand what God has freely given us. (v12)
There is not the slightest possibility
that the most educated and brilliant mind can make one step of progress in the
understanding of spiritual truth apart from the direct, supernatural teaching to
the individual heart [mind] by the indwelling Spirit. Hence the
imperative aspect of the New Birth.
Looking into the Gospel of Luke, chaper 24 we read:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He
explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Then their eyes [understanding] were opened and they
recognized Him... (v31)
And they said to one another, "Did not
our hearts burn within us while he talked with us on the road, and while He
opened the Scriptures to us?" (v32)
Typically, it is the absence of illumination
that explains the "dual-sphere" interpretation of the meaning of
Scriptures. By dual-sphere we mean, Scripture read through the
humanistic eyes of those not born-again versus Scripture seen and
interpreted by those having the indwelling presence of God the Holy
Spirit. Because of this difference in perspective, the Bible is
truly two different Books on a practical level.
Finally, we must consider the issue of principles
of interpretation. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a
thousand times, "Well, that's YOUR interpretation!" Of
course, it can make a difference which principles, if any, one
applies to Scripture. For the born-again Christian, having
surrendered hostility to the claims of an Authoritative God, normal
principles of interpretation will seem natural. Over time,
gone will be both the desire and will to obfuscate the plain meaning of
the text. Nevertheless, it's good that we discover and embrace
recognized rules of Scripture interpretation. The discipline or
science of interpretation is called hermeneutics. And so principles of interpretation are synonymous with
rules. These rules are simple and any honest reader of the
Bible will want to commit them to memory. They are often referred
to as the historic-grammatical method of interpretation.
Respect the meaning of words, the form of sentences, and the
peculiarities of idiom. The "common" meaning is typically the
correct meaning, unless it's shown to be inconsistent with other
words in the sentence, with the argument or context, or with other
parts of Scripture. The true meaning is typically the sense
which was intended by the inspired writers, though imperfectly
understood by the writers themselves.
Interpret according to the context. The
true meaning of a word, will often be modified by the connection in
which it is used.
Interpret with regard to the scope and
design of the book itself, or of some larger section in
which the words and expression occur. Think, "What's the
Compare Scripture with Scripture.
Propositional truth is the consistent explanation of all that
Scripture teaches upon a particular subject. The above four
rules allow for all the various genre of language: i.e., parables,
prophecy, apocalyptic, poetry, wisdom literature, figures of speech,
In contrast to this historic-grammatical (normal)
method of interpretation, there exists the spiritualizing approach. Basically, this method ignores all
four rules above when the plain sense meaning of a verse or portion of
Scripture is intellectually or emotionally unacceptable to
the reader. Typically, the reader has approached Scripture with
certain previously-formed beliefs (presuppositions). When the
conflict is sensed, the reader will attempt to "spiritualize" the
text so as to maintain their currently held belief. A good example
of this this is spiritualizing encounter with the first chapter of
Genesis. Faithful to scientific "truth," all religious
liberals and secular naturalists will axiomatically reject the plain and
normal meaning of the creation event and spiritualize the language.
For most, the result of the spiritualizing method of
interpretation is to classify the Bible into the literary genre of
humanly-contrived myths. Of course, that is THEIR foolish and
Addendum: For further study, obtain a copy of Roy Zuck's
Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth, Victor
Books, 1991. This is an excellent seminary-level textbook
used at Dallas Theological Seminary by Dr. Zuck. The textbook is a
great resource; however, it is a bit dated in that it was conceived and
written before the adverse influence of postmodernism (aka: postmodern
biblical criticism) took hold within academic circles and thus fails to
address some of these more contemporary issues.
If you're a bit murky on postmodernism or "Emergent", that's acceptable...if
you're over the age of 40. You may
get a better understanding by backing into this form of contemporary
reality. See the creatively satirical
Emergence-See ¤ Po-Motivators for Emergent Christians, Motivational
Posters for the Emerging
CHAOS by TeamPyro.blogspot.com.
Also read: General &
Special Revelation - How God Has Revealed Himself
SO, WHAT'S IN THE
AND, WHERE SHOULD I START READING?
Two very good questions! First, the books of
the Bible, which chronicle over 2,000 years of history, can be generally
organized into 6 groups. The traditional designation of Old
Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) is unfortunately misleading and typically causes confusion and
theological errors in understanding.
So please, mentally discard the OT vs. NT concept!
The LAW (Torah) is the first five books,
Genesis to Deuteronomy, which were written by Moses. Genesis
1-11 contains the Creation narrative and account of the origin of
life: plant, animal, and human; and the Noahic Agreement.
Genesis 12 to the end of Deuteronomy largely pertains to the Jewish
nation of Israel, God's elect earthly people.
The PROPHETS (History, Major Prophets, &
Minor Prophets) are 21 books located non-consecutively from Joshua
to Malachi. Again, these writing largely pertain to the Jewish
nation of Israel. It is through God's revelation to Israel
that we learn much truth about God as well as about mankind--as
represented in Israel's history.
The WRITINGS consist of historical
excerpts, poetry, and philosophy, and include: Psalms, Proverbs,
Job, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I and II Chronicles, Song of Solomon,
Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther.
The SYNOPTIC GOSPELS (Matthew, Mark, and
Luke) document the incarnation and life of God the Son--Jesus of
Nazareth and his ministry to the nation of Israel. In His
public ministry, Jesus took up the message of himself as their awaited
Messiah and was hailed as Israel's King, Son of David, and heir to
the Throne at Jerusalem, in the Land of Promise. Contrary to
popular use, these Gospels do not present truth regarding the
heavenly Church or the New Creation Christian.
The thirteen PAULINE EPISTLES (Romans to
Philemon) pertain to the newly-formed body (Greek: ecclesia),
the heavenly Church having Jesus Christ as both its Cornerstone
and Head. It is here that the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus
Christ instructs the heavenly Body regarding His glorious New
Creation. These writings are directly addressed to Christians.
The GENERAL EPISTLES (Hebrews; James; 1 &
2 Peter; 1,2, & 3 John, and Jude) were written largely to the Jewish
converts to Christianity, who were struggling with new truth and
change. Christians can learn valuable lessons from these
Finally, we have three books which do not fit
any of the categories above. The Gospel of John
presents Jesus as God the Son, the eternal Word of God, and the
distinct message of grace and salvation through believing.
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
This is typically the best place to start reading for those unfamiliar with the Bible. Here we have Christ preparing his then
disciples for His pending death and resurrection. The book of
Acts chronicles the events immediately following Christ's
resurrection, the advent of the Church (His Body) on the Day of Pentecost, the
Gospel's transition from a largely Jewish context to that of the
entire world, and Christianity's spread from Palestine all the way
to Rome. And, the final book of the Bible, Revelation,
is a "vision" given to the Apostle John regarding spiritual
concerns, prophetic issues, and future events--i. e., things to
(1) Throughout history, some have
challenged the "extent to which the human mind can receive and understand
divine revelation, insofar as this revelation is understood to include the
communication of truth." Of late, postmodernism has raised many
questions regarding the limitations of human language. For those
skeptics or agnostics who question the ontological possibility of a
"relationship between the human mind and the Divine mind," I
suggest reading: THE
WORD OF GOD AND THE MIND OF MAN by Ronald H. Nash,1982, P&R Publishing.
THEOLOGY, Lewis S. Chafer, Dallas Seminary Press, 1947. Quotations
hereafter shown in italic text are from the same source.
From God to Us, How we got our Bible, Geisler &
Nix, Moody Press, 1974, p. 67.
THEOLOGY, Lewis S. Chafer, Dallas Seminary Press, 1947
God has Spoken and Speaks. The Bible is
THE expression of His
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