How do we know that EVERY book of the Bible is inspired by God?

Can you give me short explanation on how can we be sure that every book in the Bible is inspired by God?

I’m happy to help.  In order to answer the question, we’ll want to briefly look at what is inspired and what does it mean to say that a text is inspired.

We’re going to assume that the scripture we have are reliable transmissions of what the original authors wrote.  Much work has been done in demonstrating this to be the case.  Scholars say we can be confident with 99% accuracy in what we have today (the last 1% we are unsure of represents no major doctrines in Christianity), but this is a topic that doesn’t lend well to an e-mail exchange.  If you are interested in that work then I would recommend The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible by Holden and Geisler.  For the purposes of this e-mail, we’ll just assume that what we have is what the original authors wrote.

Matthew reports that Jesus claimed every word (in fact every stroke of the pen) in scripture is the inspired word of God (Matthew 5:18).  He was referring to the Old Testament and not the new (the New Testament did not exist when he said this), but we can gather two things from his comment.  First, we can see that Jesus endorsed the Old Testament as it existed in his day (which is the same as it exists in ours) as the word of God.  Second, we see the extent of inspiration.  It is not just the concepts, but every stroke of the pen is inspired.  This means that everything down to sentence structure and verb conjugation is inspired.  In fact we see examples of both Jesus and other authors basing theological claims on tiny details of how words are written.

So how do we know the New Testament is inspired?  There are more complex arguments for its inspiration, but I quite like the simple one below.  Recall that Jesus promised he would guide the new church movement (see Matthew 28:19-20 and John 14:15-19).  If we can believe this promise then we can believe the Holy Spirit oversaw the collection of the New Testament and it’s recognition as the word of God by the church.  Nothing has had a greater impact on the movement than the scriptures, so it is hard to know how one could claim the Holy Spirit was guiding the movement but that he did not guide the collection of the New Testament.  Let’s summarize our reasoning.

1) If Jesus was raised from the dead, then the New Testament is the Word of God.
2) Jesus was raised from the dead.
3) Therefore, the New Testament is the Word of God.

Now let’s support premise 1:

1.1) If Jesus was raised from the dead, then the Holy Spirit superintended the collection of the New Testament.  (this is entailed in Jesus’s promise)
1.2) If the Holy Spirit superintended the collection of the New Testament, then the New Testament is the Word of God.
1.3) Therefore, if Jesus was raised from the dead, then the New Testament is the Word of God.

Since Jesus was raised from the dead, we can be confident that God not only endorsed Jesus but guided the new church as it developed.  This would include the collection of the scriptures upon which the movement would be built.  There has been nothing more central or of greater impact on the church movement than our scriptures.  It is hard to see how Jesus’s promise of guidance would mean anything at all if it doesn’t include superintending the collection of those books.  So if Jesus was raised from the dead, then it seems we can trust that both the New and Old Testaments are the word of God.

It is striking to me that the New Testament as we have it today was nearly universally accepted by the early church as the Word of God.  This is what we might expect if we expect that God superintended the process.

Matt Bilyeu
Chapter Director, Reasonable Faith
Master of Arts in Apologetics, Luther Rice University and Seminary