Why Was It Written?

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By Sigrid Fowler

            From God’s perspective, why was the Bible written? A look at some references to writing and the written texts will clarify. No doubt, the Ten Commandments written on stone tablets, “with the finger of God” (Ex 31: 18) come to mind first. God conveyed his purpose when he described them to Moses as “the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction” (Ex 24: 12, my emphasis). Again God mentions writing to Moses: “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Ex 34: 27). The covenant was an ancient legal contract between two parties, and here God formalizes to Israel his promises, as well as the Law he has given. Later God said, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children . . .. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6: 7a, 9). 

            Long before Israel demanded one, God spoke of a king. To Moses he said, “when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law . . .. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law” (Deut. 17: 18-19). 

            Many psalms, for example Psalm 38, have attributions with musical settings or instructions such as “to bring to remembrance.” Psalm 38 was written as a cry for help, but also to remind the people of God’s deliverance. In David’s lament he declares, “But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer” (Ps 38: 15). Another piece of writing caused fear, not encouragement. The Babylonian king, Belshazzar, was terrified when, as he watched, a hand appeared, writing God’s judgment on the wall: “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Dan 5:27). God said to the prophet Habakkuk: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets” (Hab 2:2).

            Luke wrote his gospel, as well as Acts, to a certain Theophilus, “so that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote guidance, instruction, and encouragement in letters to various communities of Christians. “Scripture” (“something written”)is a synonym of the word Bible. As with Bible, the capital letter conveys the sense of “a holy text.” Peter speaks of Paul’s letters, comparing them to “the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). His meaning? This is God’s book, whatever human author set down the words.

            The Book of Hebrews opens with a note about God’s communications. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:1-3). Jesus Christ was the chosen means of revelation because he, the Son, is “the exact imprint” of God’s nature. 

            John speaks of God the Son in a way that shows how Jesus’ life and ministry, and indeed the whole biblical record, would best be conveyed in writing. Writing would be the perfect medium: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1: 1-2). In Greek, “Word” is logos. Logos is defined as the “principle of divine reason and creative order”—especially with reference to John’s gospel, the dictionary notes. John writes: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. These are written so you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). The final lines of this gospel add something of a coda to the case John is making: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21: 25). One person has called the Bible “God’s love letter to us.”