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Vol.  10  No. 2 February 2008  Page 4
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D. Gene West

Human Aspects of Writing the Bible

By D. Gene West

The writing of the Sacred Volume called the Bible was a cooperative venture between God and man, with the Holy Spirit revealing and guiding every step of the way. However, lest someone get the idea that we believe the Bible is a mere dictation product of heaven, we wish to look into the human aspects of this great undertaking.

The Bible was written in human languages. As a matter of fact, we know not that God ever attempted to communicate with man in any other way than through languages known to man. The Bible was written in at least three languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—all three of which are dead languages, and have been for thousands of years; hence, the meanings of their words have not changed in all these centuries. These languages exhibit their own peculiar linguistic forms, and this makes the job of translation a sticky wicket at times.

The Bible, since it is in reality a library of books, was written by more than thirty-five writers over a period of some sixteen hundred years. It reflects grammatical changes, irregularities, and nuances of the authors and the times in which it was written. It also was written in different genres, such as poetry, prose, literal, figurative and symbolic languages. Therefore, if it is to be understood, poetry must be read as poetry, prose as prose, etc. Sometimes one finds both prose and poetry in the same chapter, especially when studying the prophets. Not only are there different types of writing in the Sacred Volume, but there are different styles within the types. For example, Paul and Peter may have written about the same thing, as they obviously did (2 Peter 3:14-16), and they may have both written in prose, and yet we know the writing of Paul from that of Peter by the styles of the writers, which is to say, the way they used words, arranged words, their distinctive forms of writing.

The Book of books speaks of human interests as one can see from such passages as 2 Timothy 4:13, in which we find Paul urging Timothy to come to him before winter and to bring with him the cloak he left in Troas, his books and especially the parchments. These things reveal something of Paul’s personal wants and desires. While speaking of Paul, we will point out that the Bible sometimes utilized fallible human memory to recall facts. In 1 Corinthians 1:14-16, Paul, recalling his own work in Corinth, spoke of baptizing only Crispus and Gaius, then remembered that he had immersed the family of Stephanas, but could not recall whether he had baptized any other. It is almost like overhearing Paul talk of these matters. The Holy Spirit did not bring everything to his memory. That would not serve the purpose for which the Bible was written.

The awesome Book incorporates the distinct characteristics of different human cultures. For example, as Paul was closing his first letter to the church in the city of Thessalonica, he wrote, “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss” (1 Thessalonians 5:26 NKJV). Had he been writing to a modern American church he would have said, “Greet everyone with a hearty handshake.” Why the difference? Because of the differences in culture, both ancient and modern.

Finally, the Bible speaks of God from a typical human perspective. It virtually overflows with what we call, “anthropomorphisms.” By that we mean that it assigns human elements and characteristics to God. He is spoken of as having eyes, ears, arms, hands, feet, legs, heart, etc. Yet John 4:24 plainly reveals that this is not the case. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24 NKJV). We all understand that a Spirit does not have the elements that make up human beings, though these things are said to belong to God. The Bible was written by God and man for the purpose of man’s understanding what is found in it. Won’t you read and search it daily?

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