Foundations of the Faith: Why We Can Trust the Bible

Foundations of the Faith: Why We Can Trust the Bible

The Bible sits on the desks, nightstands and shelves of millions of people. Passed down from generation to generation, it is the best–selling book of all time. In our modern society, the Bible’s accessibility has increased all the more, even being available on smartphones and tablets. 

Considering the accessibility of the Bible today, one would be right to ask where this book came from. The Bible itself gives us the answer: God the Holy Spirit moved in men’s hearts and minds to write, through their own personalities, what He wanted us to receive (2 Peter 1:20-21). The formation of the Bible was an amazing process.

What Is the Bible?

Before we discuss how the Bible came to be, we should understand what the Bible actually is. Because of the way it is published, the Bible is typically seen as a singular book. However, the Bible is a collection of writings. With many different styles of writing and genres, the Bible is better understood as an anthology of writings that tell a singular, grand, overarching story of redemption.

Specifically, the Bible contains 66 distinct books under two major divisions. The first 39 books of the Bible were mostly written in Hebrew and are commonly referred to as the Old Testament. The second set of 27 books was originally written in Greek and is called the New Testament. These 66 books span events that occurred over at least 4,000 years of human history, with as many as 40 different human authors from diverse backgrounds.

So how did this all come together? How were the writings of 40 different authors over thousands of years gathered into one book?

Who Wrote the Bible?

First, we must realize that much of the Bible didn’t originally exist in written form. Most of the Old Testament and at least the four Gospels in the New Testament were likely recorded in writing after the events transpired. For example, Moses wasn’t alive during the creation of the earth and everything in it; rather, he wrote down the story as it was passed to him and preserved by God. Similarly, the Gospels were most likely written down several decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Luke, for example, notes that he wrote his Gospel after extensive research and interviews (Luke 1:1–4). We can trust that everything they wrote was fully truthful and accurate, because we know that Scripture is not man’s creation, but rather the very breath of God Himself. 

“All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek word for inspired could literally be translated “God-breathed.” God, as its primary Author, has intended and inspired every word of Scripture.

Yet, God used human authors as the agents through which He gave us the Bible. Second Peter 1:20–21 explains: “Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  

We might ask, then, how did God inspire every word of Scripture through these human authors? Did He put them in a trance and override their personality and intellect? No. Instead, God used the personalities, intellects and abilities of each writer of Scripture to communicate His Word. Common people, used in uncommon ways, put real ink on real paper as God moved them. They were not robots; they were messengers.

How Was the Bible Gathered?

If over 40 authors, living on three different continents, over four millennia, wrote the 66 books of the Bible, then how did these books become recognized as God’s words and collected into one? This process has been known as “canonization.” Canonization is the identification of writings that were authoritative for the church because God inspired them. Those writings that were both authoritative and inspired were recognized as God’s Word and as such assembled into one book, the Bible.

Contrary to modern arguments, the Bible’s canonization did not occur simply by a church or government determining what books were “in” and what books were “out.” The acceptance of the books as being both authoritative and inspired by God occurred as they were written, understood and received as God’s Word. 

The Old Testament writings were fully accepted by the Jews and Jesus as God’s authoritative, inspired Word (Luke 24:44–45). The Jews of Jesus’ day identified the 39 books of the Old Testament in three categories: the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. 

As the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection unfolded, men given authority from Jesus began to write to churches and individual believers to encourage and lead them in their faith. These writings from the apostles were recognized as inspired by God and were received as Scripture. Even the apostles themselves recognized each other’s writings as being inspired by God—they equated them with the authority and inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures (see 2 Peter 3:15–16). 

As many other books came along that contradicted the accepted books of the Bible, the early church worked to set in stone the books that were authoritative and inspired. One of the great stories of the first centuries after Jesus’ Resurrection is the amazing way in which God and His church protected the truth of Scripture from error.

By God’s grace, His Word has been preserved and protected today. The very words that the saints of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament wrote under the full inspiration of God are contained in our Bibles. When we read the Bible, we can be confident that we are hearing God’s voice just as He first spoke it through human authors long ago.  ©2024 Lifeway Christian Resources

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, Christian Standard Version. 

This article is adapted from an article that first appeared at and is reprinted with permission. Brandon D. Smith is associate professor of theology and early Christianity at Oklahoma Baptist University and host of the Church Grammar podcast. Jeremy Writebol is an author and lead campus pastor of Woodside Bible Church in Plymouth, Michigan.

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