The following are some thoughts I’ve been having, during the season leading up to Easter, about the Words of God.
Late last year I was tasked with researching and writing about the creation of the Biblical canon. It is well known that it took over a thousand years for our Bibles to come together into one uniform book through a long, confusing, and seemingly random process. First and second century Christian churches may have had a copy of this epistle, or that gospel, but none had the sixty-six book collection that Christians have long since claimed to be inspired Scripture.
At some point during my research process it hit me in a new way how incredibly humbly God handles his Words.
The Living Word, the precious Son of God, was as completely entrusted to human parents and community as you and I. The Word encountered physical danger, including political death threats by the time He was a toddler. He stubbed His toes, sprained His ankles, and bled when He was cut.
These descriptions of Jesus are well documented, especially during the season leading up to Easter. He hungered, He thirsted, He bled, He cried, He ached, He longed, He felt exhausted, He obeyed, He submitted, He drank the bitter cup, He died, He wrapped Himself in complete and utter humility. Indeed, we have a humble God.
Almost all of these depictions of Jesus’ humanity can be applied to God’s written Word as well. Though fully inspired by the Holy Spirit it has also been completely entrusted to the touch of man. The written Word has been endlessly misquoted, banned, twisted, copied, burned, translated, argued over, fought over, warred over, and rearranged to meet political needs. What a humble God.
With both the Living Word and with the written Word, God has fully embraced his incarnational ways. Not only did Jesus become flesh, but the written Word became flesh too. Though the Bible is the most famous and studied “book” on earth, it is a book, with pages and type, which has had a life on earth. It was developed, it grew, and it expanded as God patiently revealed Himself to men. Similarly, God handed over the development of His written Word into one Holy Scripture, to men.
This has created ample opportunity for men to accomplish their own desires through misused or twisted scripture usage. From the Gnostics of the late first century, to Thomas Jefferson’s personally edited bible, some men have always taken advantage of God’s humble entrusting of His Word to men. This manipulation of Scripture will certainly continue to the very end of this age.
Amazingly, incredibly, inconceivably, Jesus accomplished everything He set out to do as a man. Hatred of men and the attacks of demons was no match for the will of the Father, Son, and Spirit in Christ. He died, just as He meant Himself to die. He was resurrected just as the Father promised. He reigns just as He always has.
The written Word is accomplishing all that it is intended to do. Though it is dragged through mud, though it is attacked in every phase of history in every place on earth, it is alive and active. It is drawing men to God, just as it always has.
Men refused to trust Jesus because He came from Galilee. Men refuse to trust the written Word because we don’t know who all the authors were, or when exactly each book was written, or any other number of origin questions. But despite these complexities and mysteries the written Word shapes history as no other book ever has.
A heretic named Marcion in the mid-second century A.D created the first canon of scripture. Marcion was a Gnostic who hated the Jewish people. He created his own book of scriptures by eliminating much of the Old Testament and restricting the New Testament to the writings of the Apostle Paul.
In response to this initial and heretical canonization of scripture the growing second century Christian church began to fully recognize the need for an orthodox canon. Over the next century different Christian counsels gathered and compared notes, and texts, eventually forming the current Bible sometime in the third century.
It is astonishing to me that God is so humble as to allow His Word to have gone through the process it has gone through. He is so humble to submit his Words to men. We murdered His innocent and perfect Son. We repeatedly attempt to murder His written Word and He continues to inspire the Bible with resurrection power.
God does not fear our doubts about His Words. His humility is matched by His power. His whispers carry more authority than any hellish scream. His Word is His heart, and He has given it extravagantly to His creation.