From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible

From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible

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by Norman L. Geisler, William E. E. Nix

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The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful


The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

This is a long-trusted resource for understanding why we can trust the Scriptures really are God's word.

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How We Got Our Bible
By Norman L. Geisler William E. Nix

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8024-2882-0

Chapter One

The Character of the Bible

The Bible is a unique book. It is one of the oldest books in the world, and yet it is still the world's bestseller. It is a product of the ancient Eastern world, but it has molded the modern Western world. Tyrants have burned the Bible, and believers revere it. It is the most quoted, the most published, the most translated, and the most influential book in the history of humankind.

Just what is it that constitutes this unusual character of the Bible? How did the Bible originate? When and how did the Bible take on its present form? What is meant by the "inspiration" of the Bible? These are the questions that occupy our interest in this introductory chapter.

The Structure of the Bible

The word Bible (Book) came into English by way of French from the Latin biblia and the Greek biblos. It was originally the name given to the outer coat of a papyrus reed in the eleventh century BCE. By the second century CE, Christians were using the word to describe their sacred writings.

The Two Testaments of the Bible

The Bible has two major parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was written and preserved by the Jewish community for a millennium or more before the time of Christ. The New Testament was composed by disciples of Christ during the first century CE.

The word testament, which is better translated "covenant," is taken from the Hebrew and Greek words designating a compact or agreement between two parties. In the case of the Bible, then, we have the old contract between God and His people, the Jews, and the new, compact between God and Christians.

Christian scholars have stressed the unity between these two Testaments of the Bible in terms of the person of Jesus Christ who claimed to be its central theme.' St. Augustine said the New Testament is veiled in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New Testament. Or, as others have put it, "The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed." Again, Christ is enfolded in the Old Testament but unfolded in the New. Believers before the time of Christ looked forward in expectation, whereas present-day believers see the realization of God's plan in Christ.

The Books of the Old Testament

The books of our English Old Testament Bible are divided into four sections: Law, History, Poetry, and Prophecy in the following way:


The Law (Pentateuch)—5 books

1. Genesis 2. Exodus 3. Leviticus 4. Numbers 5. Deuteronomy

Poetry—5 books

1. Job 2. Psalms 3. Proverbs 4. Ecclesiastes 5. Song of Solomon

History—12 books

1. Joshua 2. Judges 3. Ruth 4. 1 Samuel 5. 2 Samuel 6. 1 Kings 7. 2 Kings 8. 1 Chronicles 9. 2 Chronicles 10. Ezra 11. Nehemiah 12. Esther

Prophecy—17 books

A. Major Prophets

1. Isaiah 2. Jeremiah 3. Lamentations 4. Ezekiel 5. Daniel

B. Minor Prophets

1. Hosea 2. Joel 3. Amos 4. Obadiah 5. Jonah 6. Micah 7. Nahum 8. Habakkuk 9. Zephaniah 10. Haggai 11. Zechariah 12. Malachi

The Books of the New Testament

The New Testament is also divided into four sections: Gospels, History, Epistles, and Prophecy.



1. Matthew 2. Mark 3. Luke 4. John


1. Acts of the Apostles


1. Romans 2. 1 Corinthians 3. 2 Corinthians 4. Galatians 5. Ephesians 6. Philippians 7. Colossians 8. 1 Thessalonians 9. 2 Thessalonians 10. 1 Timothy 11. 2 Timothy 12. Titus 13. Philemon 14. Hebrews 15. James 16. 1 Peter 17. 2 Peter 18. 1 John 19. 2 John 20. 3 John 21. Jude


1. Revelation

The Sections of the Bible

The fourfold division of the Old Testament is based on a topical arrangement of books stemming from the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This translation known as the Septuagint (LXX) was begun in the third century BCE. The Hebrew Bible does not follow this fourfold topical classification of books. Instead, a threefold division is employed, possibly based on the official position of the author. Moses, the lawgiver, has his five books listed first (Law, Torah); these are followed by the books of men who held the prophetic office (Prophets, Nebhi'im). Finally, many believe that the third section contained books by men who were believed to have had a prophetic gift but who did not hold a prophetic office (Writings, Kethubhim). Hence, the Hebrew Old Testament has the following structure:


The Law (Torah)

1. Genesis 2. Exodus 3. Leviticus 4. Numbers 5. Deuteronomy

The Prophets (Nebhi'im)

A. Former Prophets

1. Joshua 2. Judges 3. Samuel 4. Kings

B. Latter Prophets

1. Isaiah 2. Jeremiah 3. Ezekiel 4, The Twelve

The Writings (Kethubhim)

A. Poetical Books

1. Psalms 2. Proverbs 3. Job

B. Five Rolls (Megilloth)

1. Song of Songs 2. Ruth 3. Lamentations 4. Esther 5. Ecclesiastes

C. Historical Books

1. Daniel 2. Ezra-Nehemiah 3. Chronicles

Source: This is the arrangement in modern Jewish editions of the Old Testament. See TANAKH: A New Translation of THE HOLY SCRIPTURES According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, NJV, NJPS (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1962, 1985, 1999, 2001).

The earliest arrangement of the Jewish Bible was twofold: Law and Prophets. It is alluded to in Zechariah 7:12 and in Daniel 9:2, 6, 11, 13. It is used in the intertestamental period (2 Macc. 15:9), in the Qumran Community (Manual of Discipline 9.11), and repeatedly in the New Testament (cf. Matt. 5:17; Luke 16:31). Indeed, in Luke 24:27 the Lau' and Prophets are called "all the Scriptures." It is generally agreed that the earliest possible testimony to it is the prologue to the Book of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, during the second century BCE, though it is not called "the Writings" but simply refers to "others books of our fathers" which may or may not even have been inspired books.

The reference to a third division began in the first century. Jewish historian Josephus called this section "four books [that] contain hymns to God and precepts for the conduct of human life" (Against Apion, 1.8). It was not until the subsequent Jewish Mishnah (Baba Bathra) in the fifth century CE that the current threefold division of the Jewish Old Testament with eleven books of the Writings was crystallized. Some see a hint of a threefold division in Jesus saying that "everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44). However, first of all, this is not likely since Luke had just referred to a twofold division of Law and Prophets being "all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27). Second, he does not call it the Writings (which had eleven books). Finally, he probably singled out the Psalms here because of their messianic significance which he is stressing in this passage.

However, since the time of the Mishnah, Judaism has maintained a threefold division to date; Jerome's Latin Vulgate and subsequent Christian Bibles have followed the more topical fourfold format of the Septuagint. Combining this division with the natural and widely accepted fourfold categorization of the New Testament, the Bible may be cast into the following overall Christocentric structure:


Law Foundation for Christ Old History Preparation for Christ Testament Poetry Aspiration for Christ Prophecy Expectation of Christ

Gospels Manifestation of Christ New Acts Propagation of Christ Testament Epistles Interpretation and Application of Christ Revelation Consummation in Christ

Although there is no divinely authoritative basis for viewing the Bible in an eightfold structure, the Christian insistence that the Scriptures be understood Christocentrically is firmly based on the teachings of Christ. Some five times in the New Testament, Jesus affirmed Himself to be the theme of Old Testament Scripture (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7). In view of these statements, it is natural to view the eightfold topical arrangement of Scripture in terms of its one theme—Christ.

Chapters and Verses in the Bible

The earliest Bibles have no chapter and verse divisions (see discussion in chap. 12). These were added for convenience in quoting the Scriptures. Stephen Langton, a professor at the University of Paris and later Archbishop of Canterbury, is credited with dividing the Bible into chapters in 1227 Verses were added in 1551 and 1555 by Robert Stephanus, a Paris printer. Happily, Jewish scholars since that time have adopted the same chapter and verse divisions for the Old Testament.

The Inspiration of the Bible

The most significant characteristic of the Bible is not its formal structure but its divine inspiration. The Bible's claim to be divinely inspired must not be misunderstood. It is not poetic inspiration but divine authority that is meant when we speak of the inspiration of the Bible. The Bible is unique; it is literally "God-breathed." Now let us examine what this means.

Inspiration Defined

The word inspiration (Gk., theopneustos) is used only once in the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16), and it refers to the Old Testament writings as being "breathed out" by God. Jesus used another phrase when He referred to the Old Testament as "every word that comes From the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). David said, "The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2).

Biblical Descriptions of Inspiration

Paul wrote to Timothy, "All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16 RSV). That is, the Old Testament Scriptures or writings are "God-breathed" (Gk., theopneustos) and, therefore, authoritative For the doctrine and practice of the believer. A kindred passage in 1 Corinthians 2:13 (RSV) stresses the same point. "And we impart this," wrote Paul, "in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit." Words taught by the Holy Spirit are divinely inspired words.

The second great passage in the New Testament on the inspiration of the Bible is 2 Pet. 1:21 (RSV). "No prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." In other words, the prophets were men whose messages did not originate with their own impulse but were "Spirit-moved." By revelation God spoke to the prophets in many ways (Heb. 1:1): angels, visions, dreams, voices, and miracles. Inspiration is the way God spoke through the prophets to others. The fact that the prophets searched their own writings to see "what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories" (1 Pet. 1:11) is a further indication that their words were not ultimately self-initiated.

Combining the classical passages on inspiration, we find that the Bible is inspired in the sense that Spirit-moved men wrote God-breathed words that are divinely authoritative for Christian faith and practice. Let us now analyze these three elements of inspiration more closely.

Theological Definition of Inspiration

Properly speaking, it is only the product that is inspired, not the persons. The single time the New Testament uses the word inspiration, it is applied only to the writings and not to the writers. It is the Bible that is inspired and not the human authors. The writers spoke and undoubtedly wrote about many things, such as those in the mundane affairs of life, which were not divinely inspired. However, since the Holy Spirit did, as Peter said, move upon the men who produced the inspired writings, we may by extension refer to inspiration in a broader sense. This broader sense includes the total process by which Spirit-moved men uttered God-breathed and hence divinely authoritative words. It is this total process of inspiration which contains three essential elements: divine causality, prophetic agency, and written authority.

Divine Causality. God is the Prime Mover in the inspiration of the Bible. It is the divine which moved the human. God spoke to the prophets first and then through them to others. God revealed, and spokespersons of God recorded, the truths God revealed. Finally, the people of God recognized the prophetic message. That God is the ultimate source and original cause of biblical truth is the first and most fundamental factor in the doctrine of inspiration. Nevertheless, it is not the only factor.

Prophetic Agency. The prophets who wrote Scripture were not automatons. They were more than mere recording secretaries. They wrote with full intent and consciousness in the normal exercise of their own literary styles and vocabularies. The personalities of the prophets were not violated by a supernatural intrusion. The Bible which they wrote is the Word of God, but it is also the words of humans. God used their personalities to convey His propositions. The prophets and/or their amanuenses (cf. 1 Pet. 5:12) were the immediate cause of what was written, but God was the ultimate cause.

Written Authority. The final product of divine authority working through the prophetic agency is the written authority of the Bible. The Scriptures are "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is the last word on doctrinal and ethical matters. All theological and moral disputes must be brought to the bar of the written Word. The Scriptures derive their authority from God through His prophets. Thus, it is the prophetic writings and not the writers as such which possess and retain the resultant divine authority. The prophets have died; the prophetic writings live on.

In brief, an adequate definition of inspiration must have three fundamental factors: God the Prime Mover, men of God as the secondary causes, and a divinely authoritative writing as the final result.

Some Important Distinctions

Inspiration Distinguished from Revelation and Illumination

Two related concepts which help to clarify by contrast what is meant by the process of inspiration are revelation and illumination. The former deals with the disclosure of truth, the latter the discovery of that truth. Revelation involves the unveiling of truth, illumination the understanding; but inspiration as such involves neither. Revelation concerns the origin and giving of truth; inspiration the reception and recording of it; illumination the subsequent apprehension and understanding of it. The inspiration which brings a written revelation to men is not in itself a guarantee that they will understand it. Illumination of the mind and heart is necessary. Revelation is an objective disclosure; illumination is the subjective understanding of it; inspiration is the means by which the revelation became an objective disclosure. Revelation is the fact of divine communication, inspiration is the means, and illumination is the gift of understanding that communication.

Inspiration of the Original, Not the Copies

The inspiration and consequent authority of the Bible does not automatically extend to every copy and translation of the Bible. Only the autographic texts themselves (or perfect copies of them) are inerrant (without error). Every other copy is inspired only insofar as it is an accurate reproduction of the original. Mistakes and changes made in copy and translation cannot claim this original inspiration. Second Kings 8:26, for example, says that Ahaziah was twenty-two years old at his coronation, whereas 2 Chronicles 22:2 (RSV) says he was forty-two years old. Both cannot be correct. Only the original and not the scribal error is authoritative. Other examples of this type can be found in present copies of the Scriptures (e.g., cf. 1 Kings 4:26 and 2 Chron. 9:25). A translation or copy, then, is authoritative only to the extent that it accurately reproduces the original text.


Excerpted from FROM God TO US by Norman L. Geisler William E. Nix Copyright © 2012 by Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

NORMAN GEISLER (Th.B., William Tyndale College; A.B., Wheaton College; M.A., Wheaton College Graduate School; Ph.D., Loyola University) Distinguished Professor of Apologetics at the Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California He is the author or co-author of some 80 books including A General Introduction to the Bible, Baker Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, Christian Ethics, and Systematic Theology. He has also written hundreds of articles. He and his wife of 57 years, Barbara, have six children, fifteen grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina.

WILLIAM E. NIX (A.B., Wayne State University; A.M., University of Michigan; Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is an editorial and educational consultant based in Dallas, Texas. He has taught at several colleges and seminaries, and served as Dean at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Nix currently serves at Veritas Evangelical Seminary, Murrieta, CA as Professor of Historical and Theological Studies and Director of Master of Theological Studies. He is also President of The Electronic Bible Society. Dr. Nix is co-author with Dr. Norman L. Geisler of From God to Us and A General Introduction to the Bible. In addition, Dr. Nix has edited several books and written numerous articles. He resides with his wife, Eulaine, in Dallas, Texas.

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From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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Theophilusfamily More than 1 year ago
From God to us: How we got our Bible. by Dr. Geisler and Dr. Nix We first heard about Dr. Geisler and Dr. Nix's weighty 412 page book on Mrs. Parshalls radio show, In the Market. Moody Press has just republished this book, revised and expanded from the first edition in 1978. This book should be on every Christians shelf. This book contains 21 chapters that cover the four very strong links in the chain from God to us. These links of Inspiration, Canonization, Transmission, and Translation bring the Bible to us from God. God wrote the Bible by Inspiration. From God to us, page 66 "The first characteristic of Inspiration is that it is Inspired writing; namely it is verbal. The very Words of the Prophets were God given, not by dictation but by Spirit-directed employment of the prophet's own vocabulary and style. Inspiration also claims to be plenary (full). No part of Scripture is without Divine Inspiration. Paul wrote 'All Scripture is Inspired by God.' (2 Tim. 3 verse 16, NASB). In addition, Inspiration implies inerrancy in the original documents, called autographs... Finally Inspiration results in the Divine authority of Scripture. The teaching of Scripture is binding on believers for Faith and Practice." This is what elevates the Bible to a whole new not so easily dismissed plane, making it so rich for those who feed their soul on its marrow and fatness and yet so threatening to those who defy it. The Bible actually claims to be the Words of God, collected, preserved, and here for us today. The Doctrine of Inspiration, and the quote above give us the frame of the book. The frame of studying How we got our Bible. First- All Scripture is God Breathed. How did we determine what books were Scripture? Who got to decide? Or- was it all decided by God and we recognized it? How did we? This is Canonization, studied in chapters 6 through eleven. Then we have the question- the autographs were inspired, but they are all gone. Do we have the Bible we were given? Has it changed? How? Can we trust it? This is Transmission, studied in chapters eleven to Then we have the question that according to evangelist Bill Jack is often cited by college students as a reason why they cannot believe the Bible is true: Too Many Translations. How did the Bible come to us in English faithfully copied and translated throughout hundreds of years, with no mistakes. What about all the Revisions and Corrections that must have been made? Are Revisions in a Translation the same as changes to the text? How do I choose a Bible that is a close to the original text as possible? When was the ESV begun? Is the KJV the definitive Bible? This book is a worthy read- a very worthy read. If we study this book and master its contents we will be able to defend the Scriptures' authority and we will have comprehensive answers to give the person who says that the Biblical books were "chosen" and "decided" at a big council in the 300s AD. Or that the prophetic books were written long after the prophecies. Or that Genesis was written during the Babylonian Exile. Or that the whole Bible was written by a sixth century monk, as one anti-theist said. Or- the idea that somebody changed every manuscript all over the known world to reflect their personal heresy. Or any number of feeble attacks that this book will help you resist. Understanding the Bible also arms you to war with cult teaching- all of which rewrite the Scripture to get what they want. Why should we believe that we have the Bible we were given? How do we know that the "cult" version is not what the original really said? Aren't we getting further from the original each time we translate our Bible? Did you know that every translation can be more accurate than the one before because of the old manuscripts we can now work with? Did you know that every one of Paul's letters claims its own inspiration? Even Philemon? Philemon claims its own inspiration verses eight and nine when Paul makes it clear that he has the authority as an apostle to command Philemon to obey, but would rather appeal to him as a brother in the Lord. There are many exciting facts woven in- did you know that many languages were written for the first time when Christian Evangelists brought the Gospel to an unsaved country and wrote the spoken words into a written language so the Bible could be read by the people? This book is a thorough study of the way we got our Bible from two esteemed Professors, and leaves you knowing that you have the tools in the book to learn a lot about this topic. Buy this book- take a highlighter or three, and spend a month reading From God to us. Go to In the Market with Janet Parshall and listen to her review with Dr. Geisler as you wait for your copy to come.