The past two weeks I’ve written about the human involvement in the writing and collection of Sacred Scripture. Our fingerprints are all over the Bible. It is easy to see the human authors at work. To deny their work would be foolish since then we would have to admit God made mistakes in the writing of the Bible.
Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wrote a book entitled “Misquoting Jesus.” In his lectures he points out all the conflicting points in scripture and the changes that have happened to the text. It does not take a Ph.D. to recognize that Matthew, Mark and Luke all report the cleansing of the temple during the last week of Jesus’ ministry while John reports it happening at the beginning of his ministry.
The discrepancies among the Gospels are important because they show us that each Gospel is a different reflection on who Jesus is. Attempts to blend all the gospels into one story do not work because of such differences. In a sense we would be writing another Gospel unlike any of the four found in the New Testament. Hollywood does that with the movies on the life of Christ. We are best served when we let each Gospel tell its own story.
Muslims believe their scripture, the Koran, was divinely dictated by God and therefore without error. There are many Christians that hold a similar opinion about the Bible. Even when I say the accepted opinion is that the Bible is the Word of God conveyed in human words, there are many who consider that blasphemous. What we can agree on is that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
The problem is that human language cannot contain the mystery of God. Words will always be inadequate. So, we believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the entire experience of Scripture, from writing to editing to collecting to translating to our reading of the text. The Holy Spirit safeguards the truth that God wants us to understand even when the words do not seem adequate. Our faith is not in the words of the Bible but in the God who inspired those words. We reverence them as God’s Word because He is the source and inspiration. Using humans to convey his message of salvation works because the Holy Spirit is always at work when the Word of God is read and proclaimed. In faith we see beyond the human author and meet the inspiration himself.
Father Patrick Toner is pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 140 West Ave., Plain City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 873-8850.