Christians believe that the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is the inspired Word of God. Human authors wrote the various books over a millennium; each however was inspired by God. inspire means both to ‘breathe in’ and to ‘fill one with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially creative’.
God did not dictate to the human authors, as for example Islam claims that God/Allah dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad. Rather we believe that the Holy Spirit infused human authors with the understanding of what God wished to communicate, so that the authors could do this appropriate for human understanding yet without theological error.
Recently a friend shared with me an insightful article written by Jason Carlson and Ron Carlson entitled Is the Bible the Inspired Word of God?. To paraphrase their article into a Catholic context, let’s delve into what the Church understands about the formation of the Bible.
Although our term ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek word (biblion) that means ‘book’, the Bible is not one book but a collection of 73 books.
The 46 books of the OT were composed over a period of 10 centuries leading up to the time of Christ; portions had been taken from written stories from perhaps several centuries earlier. The 27 books of the NT were written over the last half of the first century AD/CE. During this long span of time that the books of the Bible were composed, the culture and society changed dramatically many times.
These 73 books were written by an untold number of authors- several dozen at the least. They were a wide variation of educated and not-so-educated people including priests, prophets, preachers, apostles, kings, courtiers, scribes, fishermen, a physician, and regular people like you and me. There could not have been collaboration between the disparate authors.
The Bible, and indeed a sizable number of the books, are not of a single literary genre. Throughout the books in each testament we find story, poetry, prayer, prophecy (speaking on behalf of God), wisdom, novellas, letters, and history. Yet each holds true to the central message of God’s creation and plan for our salvation.
The books were originally composed in at least 3 different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This would seem to lead to confusion and dissonance, yet the opposite is true- the books agree on their message of God’s love and care for His human creation.
The various authors composed the books on 3 separate continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, from Jerusalem (Israel) to Rome (Italy) to Babylon (Iraq) to Alexandria (Egypt). Again this cultural variation would seem to lead to less cohesion, yet the opposite is true: the Bible is consistent in its message of who God is and what our relationship is with Him.
The consistent message throughout the span of the Bible points us to the One author- the Bible is the Inspired Word of God.
— Eric Wolf