By Elysia McColley
If you spend any time outside of Christian circles, you have probably heard claims that the Bible is one of many holy books and that it shows one of many paths to God. Unfortunately, these claims have made their way into Christian circles, as well, and even some pastors believe that the Bible is one holy book among many. They may believe that the Bible is on equal footing with texts like the Muslim Qur’an, the Hindu Vedas, or the Zoroastrian Gathas.
Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, referred to the Bible as the “norma normans non normata,” meaning “norm of norms that cannot be normed.” In other words, the Bible is the absolute standard by which anything else should be measured. It is not comparable to other scriptures but is rather the measure against which they should be held. Let’s take a close look at some of the unique features of the Bible that set it apart from other texts.
- The Bible does not try to cover up just how flawed its characters are.David, the greatest king of ancient Israel, was an adulterer and a murderer. Judah, the leader of the tribe from which Jesus would come, consorted with his daughter-in-law, whom he believed to be a prostitute. There’s plenty of other examples – Samson’s dealings with Delilah, Noah’s drunkenness, Moses’ murder. The only perfect person in the Bible is Jesus; everyone else fell incredibly short.Other holy books present their figures as perfect, or at least pretty close. The Bible is unique in that it does not try to hide the sinfulness of the people that God used mightily. The reason is simple: the point is not the perfect conduct of the people but the perfect God who chose them anyway.
- Despite the books’ diverse authorship, the Bible is a uniform text.The Bible, which consists of 66 different books, was written by 40 different authors over a 1500-year period on three different continents, yet it is incredibly consistent. It tells one overarching story, that of the family of Abraham and of his greatest descendent, Jesus Christ. Though there appear to be some discrepancies – such as the number of generations between different characters – they are easily resolved by looking at the cultural context in which the Bible was written.The Bible is so uniform that even though the Old Testament and New Testament are vastly different from each other, the message of the New Testament can be found in the Old. The message of the Old Testament is fully revealed in the New, as the prophecies about Jesus and the Law of Moses are fulfilled.
- The Bible elevates women above cultural norms.In the ancient Near East, women had no rights and were frequently viewed as property. However, in the Bible, they had a much higher status and were frequently used by God. They had such a high status that four women were mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus! This may be the only example of an ancient text in which women are listed in such an important genealogy.In the scriptures of many other religions, women are viewed as subhuman and have no rights.
- The Bible authenticates its own truth claims.Micah 5:2 contains a prophecy that the coming Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, the exact place where Jesus was born. Daniel 9:25 indicates the year that the Messiah would come. These are just two of hundreds upon hundreds of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. In addition to prophecies about the coming Messiah, there are numerous other prophecies that were fulfilled. The fulfillment of its prophecies is a means by which the Bible authenticates its own truth claims.Other holy books may present stories of important figures and wise sayings. They may even present “prophecies,” but these prophecies are vague and don’t necessarily refer to divinely-ordained future events. The Bible is unique because its fulfilled prophecies attest to its divine origins.
- The message of the Bible continues to transform people’s lives.Revelation 12:11 says that the saints defeat the devil through the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. The people whose lives continue to be transformed by the Bible are perhaps the greatest evidence there is that the Bible is different than other holy books.
In giving us the Bible, God went to great lengths to show us that He has a message for us. This message is unique and cannot be viewed as one message among many. Whenever we have questions about what we should believe, the place to turn is always the Bible; from it, we can find how we should view the truth claims that other holy books make.