Do you remember the song from Sunday School about the story of Zacchaeus? It went something like this…
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he
He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see
What would it do to your faith to find out that Zacceaus was not actually WEE little, but was just your average short man? Or that Zacchaeus was not in the tree trying to see the Lord Jesus, as the song reports, but was actually trying to retrieve a frisbee, but then heard his name being called by the Son of God?
When I attended seminary, one of the discussions we used to have was about whether or not the Bible was inerrant, or infallible. In other words, is it possible that there are factual “errors” in the Bible when it refers to times, places, peoples, and events? No other topic stirred up more emotion than this one.
I think these discussions miss the point. I just started reading Introduction to the Old Testament by Walter Brueggemann in which he explains that modern tests of reliability are wrongheaded when it comes to the Bible, because it “asks of the texts what they do not intend to deliver.” The Bible is not primarily a book of history or science facts, even though it contains historically and scientifically verifiable information. The Bible “is a world of meaning that has as its key character YHWH, the God of Israel, who operates in the narratives and songs of Israel that are taken as reliable renderings of reality.”
The Bible never fails to do exactly what it intends: to deliver the story of God’s redemptive work within humanity, thus bringing people into relationship with Him.
I use the word “infallible” occasionally to describe the Scriptures, but I would prefer to use the phrase that the Bible uses to describe itself: breathed-out by God.
2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Why did it say “breathed-out by God,” and not “spoken” by God? Breath implies vitality, life, and intimacy. The Bible was not dictated or spoken to the writers from afar, leaving them only to put the words down on paper. They recorded the story of their lives using their imagination and memory, within the context of a relationship with God. The life story of humanity is wrapped up in the life of God on the pages of Scripture.
I’ve never read a book of facts that felt alive, that pierced and divided my heart, and that brought me into the intentions and will of the author. It’s the breath of God which differentiates the Bible from other books. And when we argue about dates, times, distances, names, and places, we are missing the voice of God calling us into closer relationship with him.
5 thoughts on “Breath of God, Word of God”
By the way, this article was inspired by Michael Reddish’s post at Guerilla Church. http://mredd.wordpress.com/2007/06/26/has-it-been-lost-in-translation/
Jason, I got so much out of reading this little blog on the Breath of God. It was amazing! You are an amazing Christian! God is using you in a mighty way. I am so proud of you. I wish so much that Mark could be here to see how you have turned out and maybe you could have had an influence on him. Jill is dating a minister from the church she is at and it is serious. He is getting ordained this month. Go to my site to see the boys and how they have grown. Love Aunt Pat.
I believe the Bible is the inerrent word of God. In other words, if it says that Zacheus was a wee little man, I believe he was probably about my height. About 5’2. He couldn’t see over the crowd that is why he climbed that tree. Just like when the donkey talked. I believed the donkey actually talked. Semanaries try to make you think! They did that when my dad went to college. The Bible is God speaking to us telling us his will for our lives. Yes, it is part history to, but it is the spoken word of God and it says we are not to add to it nor are we to take away from it
wow, great post
Three years ago I was wandering around [mental hospital] completely shattered physically, emotionally and spiritually. The mental torment I was experiencing was absolutely terrifying. Every waking second, I was having horrifying images from my past. I thought I was being punished for my past sins. My whole life flashed before my eyes and I felt I had failed miserably in my journey through life. The whole experience was an awakening [THE LONG DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL] a metamorphosis. God was slowly penetrating the shield I had put up all those desperate years. I had no “I” – that is what God wanted for me, to become Christ centered, not “I” centered [in retrospect]. There is nothing in this world, but the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He eventually delivered me from my HELL; when I got down on my knees and asked Him for mercy and forgiveness for my sins. Praise the LORD!!
PEACE BE WITH YOU