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How do we know the Bible is God’s word? An Argument from Above

We could cite scriptures which tell the Bible is the inspired word of God, but this would be begging the question. The statement “I believe the Bible is inspired because the Bible says it is inspired” is a circular argument, an informal fallacy where the only reason for believing the conclusion is because you’ve assumed it in one of the premises.

The need for another argument is clear. One such argument is what I call the Argument from Above. It goes like this;

Jesus’ resurrection implies the divinity of Jesus, which implies his teachings were true, which implies his disciples faithfully distributed and applied Christ’s teaching to the first century church, which implies the inspiration of the Bible. One could structure such an argument like this.

  1. If God raised Jesus from the dead, God approves of what Jesus taught.
  2. Jesus taught the inspiration of scriptures (Old and New Testaments)
  3. God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Therefore,
  4. God approves of what Jesus taught. (modus ponens, 1&3)

    Therefore,
  5. God approves of the teaching of the inspirations of scriptures. (modus ponens, 4&2)

Premise 1

The rationale for the truth of premise one is that Jesus’ resurrection takes place within a religious and cultural context of first century Palestine. Jesus’ declaration before the High Priest of just what kind of Messiah he is, his self-understanding as the unique Son of God and of one who shares equality with God, led him to be convicted as a blasphemer. To be hung on a cross is literally to be accursed of God. Jesus’ resurrection reversed the tragedy and gave a divine seal of approval to Jesus and his claims. This meant he really was the divine-human person he claimed himself to be, and all his teachings were true.

The scriptures also attest to the truth of this premise.

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Acts 2:22-24

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

Acts 17:31

regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 1:3-4

Premise 3

The truth of premise three can be assumed for the sake of argument, which reveals that if God raised Jesus from the dead, the scriptures are in some sense inspired. In this way we can show that the inspiration of the scriptures come in a package deal with Jesus’ resurrection, and visa versa.

Alternatively, the truth of premise three can be confirmed through an encounter with the risen Lord Himself. Truely an argument from above! So if you already have good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you have a good argument for the inspiration of Scripture.

Additionally, the truth of premise three can be argued for on historical grounds. However, doing this will flip the argument from above to an argument from below.

Premise 2

This premise remains to be argued for. For this we can show that Jesus believed the Old Testament to be inspired, and provided good reason to think the writings of his disciples that were collected into the New Testament would be similarly inspired.

Jesus believed the Old Testament is inspired
  1. He expressed trust that no letter would fall or be nullified
    Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17, John 10:35
  2. He based his arguments on specific words and passages
    Matthew 22:31-32; Mark 12:35-37
  1. The whole and sections received his endorsement
    Matt. 5:17; Mark. 7:8-13; 12:26; Luke 16:31; 24:27, 44
  2. Cited the Old Testament, believing it was God’s word
    Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 19:4; 21:16; Mark. 2:25; 9:12-13; 11:17; 12:10, 26; 14:21,27
Jesus believed the New Testament would be inspired
  1. Jesus taught his disciples that they were his spokesmen
    Matthew 10:14-15, 40; Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8; John 3:20; 15:27
  2. Promised the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit
    John 14:26; 16:12-13
  3. The New Testament authors recognised they were inspired
    Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; Hebrews 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:12b
  4. The New Testament authors recognised other writers were inspired
    Luke 10:7 (cf. Matthew 10:10); 1 Timothy 5:18; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Jude 17-18 (cf. 2 Peter 3:3)
Are you not assuming in a premise what you arrive at in the conclusion?

No. Something can be true and not inspired. Here we are not relying on the inspiration of scripture to establish the teachings of Jesus, but the trustworthiness or general reliability of the scriptures. In this way the argument from above does devolve into an argument from below, for we need to establish the general reliability of the scriptures (or at least these specific passages as reliable) to fulfil one’s epistemic duty and establish the second premise as true (or at least more likely true than not).

Nevertheless, if you already have a good reason to believe the scriptures are generally reliable, then you can conclude reasonably from this Argument from Above that the scriptures are inspired.

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