Is The Bible the Final Word of God?

Is The Bible the Final Word of God? May 17, 2016


Two summers ago, while driving home from Pennsylvania, and just as I entered ‘Bible Belt U.S.A.’ (somewhere in West Virginia), I was greeted by a billboard bearing an image of a leather-bound Bible with the caption: HOLY BIBLE: Inspired.  Absolute. Final. Now grant it, I knew I had entered the land of evangelical Protestantism; but I wasn’t prepared for this abrupt in-your-face religious message.

That said I initially admired the advertisement: its slick, punctuated crispness impressed me. The succinct, pithy, unequivocal message made its point with singular effectiveness – great advertising!

Now the rub for me, as I pondered a little deeper, could be summed up in another pithy phrase dispensed by one of my Scripture professors many moons ago when he admonished his eager students to never forget the “eschatological proviso” at our disposal, when faced with a literalist and fundamentalist interpretation of Sacred Scripture. In other words: when every diverse and elite exegete has had his/her say on Scriptural text, they cannot – and can never have – the final word!

So let’s try this: a brief speel by yours truly on each of the billboard’s Biblical adjectives; then I’ll wrap up and let you guys go it alone – fair?


Was the Bible – in whole or in part – written by “divinely inspired” authors? And the corollary question: Is the Bible – in whole or in part – a trustworthy document of Divine Revelation? I would like you to pause here (perhaps walk away from your iPad or PC) and let these two questions rest on your consciousness – not intellectually; just gently and reflectively, and allow your “truth” answer to emerge…

hand-453220_640The Bible, indisputably, is an impressive collection – Biblio – of literary genres: history, proverb, poetry, allegory, narrative, prophetic, archetypal, apocalyptic, parabolic, symbolic, and eschatological.  It’s also a comprehensive mix of indiscriminate violence, slavery, patriarchy, and homophobia, on the one hand; and divine love poetry, timeless wisdom, mystical depth, and integrated healing accounts, on the other.  So which is divinely inspired and which is not?  The conundrum…

Marcus J. Borg – one of the most respected Christian commentators and scholars of our day – in his memoir How I learned What Matters Most, states:

“The Bible is our foundational document but it is not the inerrant and infallible ‘revelation of God.’ ” 

Further, Borg argues that the Bible can be true without being literally true; for example, he views the Creation Stories as parables – as I do – drenched in rich religious meaning . . So the Bible as a divinely inspired and revealed text (as a whole) doesn’t cut it for me – as I hold onto that “eschatological proviso” in my back pocket!


Nah!  The American Oxford Dictionary’s pithy definition of the word “absolute” is: “not qualified or diminished; total.” Practically every section, subsection, and phrase in the Bible – to varying degrees – requires some midrash or hermeneutical qualification – not to mention the many historical and cultural nuances at play. And as for the word “total”, Jesus himself – it is recorded – once put it to his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (Jn 16:12). So in a word, scratch that one!


I think I’ve already addressed this one in my “eschatological proviso” speel above but need to add: I believe that every major world religion (and its corresponding sacred texts), along with every cultural and human experience/expression of the divine – be it in the form of ritual, sacrament, text or mystical/transpersonal experience (dream, out-of-body or otherwise), is implicitly, actually, or potentially a Revelation of the Divine whether as a result of “apparent inspiration” or not. With that, my erudite friends, I’m out of here!

Until our next yarn: watch those billboards as you putter along – sometimes they really wake you up!

Cover Photo: Pixabay

Image Insert: Pixabay

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