Diverse Sources Create Bible Unity

by Robert G. Witty

The Bible: Fact or Fiction

The Bible: Fact or Fiction? - Part 2 of 10

Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, Dr. Witty first acknowledges that neither a believer's testimony nor scientific evidences can fully satisfy a skeptic's questions as to the claims of the Bible. Instead, he proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this installment the author elaborates on the Source Test.

Source rates as a significant factor in validating any book's claim for divine origin. For example, the sacred book of Islam, the Koran, (or Qur'an, Arabic for "recital") and The Book of Mormon, a sacred book of the Mormon Church, both claim divine origin through revelations made to one man.

In contrast, the human sources for the Bible books demonstrate incredible diversity in the time of writing, in the human instrument's position, personality, and relationship with God, and in the literary type of presentation. Instead of the sixty-six books originating from the pen of a single author, the Bible required at least fifty different human writers, including kings, farmers, physicians, military leaders, statesmen, tax collectors, sheepherders, and prophets.

The human writers of the Bible lived and wrote over equally surprising and diverse time periods. No doubt the writings of the Old Testament required a time span of more than one thousand years. Such an extended time span involved an amazing kaleidoscope of human cultures that range from pre-Deluge civilization through the early cultures of Egypt and Babylon to the time of Roman world domination.

The various books of the Old Testament record the beginnings of human culture, government, racial divisions, the development of agriculture, industry, and military aggression. Individuals, tribes, and nations march through the centuries on the biblical pages. Some of the biblical record describes people who lived in tents and caves, others in palaces and temple sanctuaries. What a panorama of the centuries! What a kaleidoscope of history!

The astounding diversity of the Bible's literary forms include history, poetry, types and symbols, sermons, songs, conversations, proverbs, and visions. It appears that God set no limit in the diversity of authors, types of literature, and historical cultures in the books of the Bible.

Nevertheless, scholars agree that the books of the Bible reveal a striking unity of message. Other religions have "bibles" which are collections of heterogeneous materials, with little or no order, progression, or unifying plan. The Bible stands in sharp contrast.

Dr. James Orr, general editor of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, emphasizes the importance of this contrast, saying, "It is this aspect of the Bible which constitutes its distinction from all collections of sacred writings…in the world….The reason is, they embody no historical revelation working out a purpose in consecutive stages from germinal beginnings to perfect close. The Bible, by contrast, is a single book because it embodies such a revelation and exhibits such a purpose."

In the classic book From Eternity to Eternity, Eric Sauer uses the historical unity of the Bible to trace the progressive revelation of five teachings: the history of Israel, the history of the Temple, the history of Christ, the history of the salvation of the nations, and the history of demonism. Nothing like it exists in all of human literature.

Bruce M. Metzer, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary for more than forty years, noted: "The most remarkable feature of the Bible is its unity. The books were written over a period of at least 1,200 years…yet they all witness fundamentally to the same understanding of the nature of God…."

Is it reasonable to attempt to explain that this diversity of writers achieved this unique unity of message by accident?

Is it reasonable to attempt to explain that this diversity of writers achieved this unique unity of message by crafting what they wrote to fit into the pattern of the centuries?

Is it reasonable to attempt to explain that this diversity of writers achieved this unique unity of purpose through careful choice by an unknown and unnamed council?

Fair judgment requires a credible explanation for the Bible's incredible unity in diversity! Only one explanation is credible: the Bible is God's Word.

Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.