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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"From God to Us" (Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix)

TITLE: From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible
AUTHOR: Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012, (416 pages).

Ever wonder how we got our Bibles? How did we end up with only 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 in the New? Are we being shaped by the modern stories about the Bible as mere myth? Are we more influenced by how the Da Vinci code book portrays the Bible as a conspiracy? Or are we aware of how the Bible we have today had gone through many years of inspiration by God, faithfulness of God's people, recognition and consistency of tradition and practice, and plain simple divine guidance? Imagine over 2000 years with multiple authors across many centuries, and yet, the Bible books point to that one God. The best human efforts cannot replicate such divine flow of beauty, consistency, and truth telling.  This primer on how we get the Bible has been called a "classic" because of the depth of coverage, the clarity of thought, the conviction of the inspiration of the Spirit, and the excitement of plain story telling of a old old story.

Patiently and with understanding of the curious mind, Geisler and Nix, both professors who had taught at various evangelical seminaries offer us a new expanded edition of the 1972 classic. There are four parts to this book. Part One covers the Inspiration of the Bible, what is inspiration; how the Bible is structure; comparing orthodox views with others;  theories of revelation and inspiration; objective evidence of inspiration; and others. Part Two describes the canonicity process and criteria, covering both the Old and the New Testaments in detail. Simply put, there are three steps in canonization: Inspiration, Recognition, and Preservation. The authors answer questions about:
  • What is canonicity and how it came into being?
  • What are the differences between canonizing and categorizing?
  • What are the differences between the development of the Old and the New Testaments?
  • What about the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha?
  • Which books are cited by the Early Church fathers?
  • What about other gospels and letters? Why are they not as inspired?

Part Three tells us about how the Bible was transmitted. Revealed by God through the people of Israel, the prophets, the Hebrews, the Jews, the various language groups like Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and others, we learn the importance of precision, permanence, objectivity, and dissemination. Not all languages are the same, and the Bible was given to us in its original languages by using the uniqueness of each language. Thus, in our modern translations, an understanding of the original languages and contexts will help us understand more of what the Bible is saying. That is not all, the authors show us the writing instruments, parchments, stones, plates, rocks, and how the Bible was considered so sacred that they demand the best quality of materials and skills at that time. We also learn of the many different manuscripts, the development of textual criticism to test the authenticity of the original texts, a brief history of archaelogical discoveries, and so on.

Part Four is about translations. As the Bible gets handed down from generations to generations, we note how the sacred texts were passed on through faithful translations in their various versions of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and many others. From the ancient times, the authors gradually move toward the modern English translations we have today. Since 1972, there have been a number of newer English translations, most of them associated with publishing houses.
  • New American Study Bible Update (Lockman, 1995)
  • Today's New International Version (Zondervan/Biblica, 2002, 2005, 2011)
  • Holman-Christian Standard Bible (B&H, 1999-2004)
  • English Standard Version (Crossway, 2001, 2003)
  • New Living Translation (Tyndale, 1996, 2004)
  • New Century Version (Thomas-Nelson, 1987)
  • God's Word (Baker, 1988-1990)
  • NET Bible (Bible.org, 1999, 2007)
  • The Message (NavPress, 2003)
  • Lexham English Bible (SBL, 2010)
I commend Geisler and Nix for putting together a potpourri of materials and frameworks for the appreciation of how we get the Bible. Written very clearly, it is a primer on understanding the origins of the Bible and why we get so many different versions today. What amazes me is how the authors are able to distill complex theories and concepts into everyday terms and expressions. With supporting diagrams, pictures, and illustrations, the book is a pleasant resource to study and to learn about the Bible's origins, transmission, translations, and many others. The authors are aware of the different modernistic attacks on the Bible and have furnished some arguments against the Da Vinci code by Dan Brown as well as the ancient heresies that threaten the people of God. They cover the other gospels and patiently explain why they do not meet the criterion for canonicity. Perhaps, I can offer three concluding thoughts about the book.

First, this book is a useful and clear primer about the origin of the Bible. One of the reasons why Christians become vulnerable to blatant and baseless attacks on the Bible is because they are not familiar with the history of the Bible. As a result, Christians do not know how to respond to skeptics and unfair criticisms.

Second, I find the coverage of the various viewpoints largely fair. They spend time explaining the different views of revelation, counter arguments of the different interpretations, addressing the complexity of the mass of manuscripts, dealing with the doubts and offering up explanations along the way. By listing some of the other works like the Pseudepigrapha, the history of translations, and the many new variants, readers are introduced to the variety without having to be forced to choose any one version over the other. This is good teaching on the part of the authors. Nevertheless, I can sense the author being non-apologetic about certain convictions. Such as the categorizing of the NIV2011 within the same ranks of "Today's New International Version" instead of the well received original NIV camp. Apparently, they continue to be unconvinced about the intent of the NIV 2011 committee to get the NIV2011 more accepted just like the NIV1984.

Finally, use this book as a textbook for teaching biblical studies. I think every Christian needs to learn about the history of the Bible, and why the Bible is dependable, reliable, and is inspired by God. Sometimes, many believers do not even understand what inspiration means? With the Bible as one of the central tenets of many churches' statement of faith, it is critical and believers in general learn about the meaning of believing the Bible as the inspired Word of God.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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