What the Bible Says About Its Own Authority

Gerhard Pfandl


What the Bible Says About Its Own Authority

Seventh-day Adventists believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This claim is based on Scripture itself. There are numerous texts stating that what is written down is the Word of God. The Lord “said to . . .” (Gen. 12:1; Ex. 7:1; 1 Sam. 16:1),1 the Lord “spoke to . . .” (Gen. 9:8; Lev. 5:14; Josh. 1:1), “the word of the Lord came to . . .” (1 Sam. 15:10; Eze. 1:3 [NIV]), and similar expressions are used more than 3,000 times in the Old Testament. In this way, the biblical authors make it clear that what they wrote was not the result of their own insights or meditations but was the result of divine inspiration.

The New Testament teaches that the Lord Himself emphatically proclaimed the divine authority of the Old Testament. For Him the Old Testament was the word of God, which “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). His whole life was steeped in the writings of the Old Testament. “He [Christ] pointed to the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The Bible is to be presented as the word of the infinite God, as the end of all controversy and the foundation of all faith.”2

All the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah (as Savior and Lord) have been fulfilled in and through Jesus. In the process, the divine authority of the Old Testament has been confirmed. It predicted:

His birthplace, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)

His virgin birth (Isa. 7:14)

The time of His coming (Dan. 9:24–27)

His betrayal (Ps. 41:9; Zech. 11:12)

His suffering (Isa. 53:4, 5)

His burial (Isa. 53:9)


The apostles and the early Church understood this clearly and never wavered in acknowledging the authority of the Old Testament as the Word of God.

The authority of Scripture is like the authority of Christ; it proceeds from its very nature. It is an immediate consequence of inspiration. If God inspired the Bible, then it is vested with His authority. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV) says Paul. According to this passage, the whole Old Testament is divinely inspired and authoritative.

This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus Himself submitted to its authority. Repeatedly He directed others to the Scriptures as the final authority. “‘Have you not read,’” He asked the Sadducees who denied the resurrection, “‘what was spoken to you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matt. 22:31, 32). With a firm “It is written,” He met the attacks of Satan, and in the Sermon on the Mount, He told His hearers that “‘one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled’” (5:18). The whole of His teaching was set against the background and context of the Old Testament, thereby confirming its authority.

The New Testament contains indications that its contents were in fact viewed as no less authoritative than the Old Testament. Paul accepted the words of Christ as Scripture and regarded them as having the same authority as the Old Testament. In 1 Timothy 5:18, he wrote, “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’” The first quote comes from Deuteronomy 25:4; the second from Luke 10:7.

Peter confirmed Paul’s writings as Scripture when he wrote: “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15, 16).

Paul expressly declared his inspired proclamations to be the Word of God: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed itnot as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).

While the Bible is not a textbook in science, it is still correct when speaking of scientific matters, but it uses the language of appearance to describe scientific facts:

● Numbers 21:11 speaks of “the wilderness which is east of Moab, toward the sunrise.” We know today that the sun does not literally rise, but this is how it appears to our eyes.

● The creation account in Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation of how God created the world. It is given in everyday language as an observer standing on this earth would have seen things develop around him or her.

While the Bible is not a textbook on history, it is still correct when it speaks of historical matters:

● The Bible many times mentions the Hittites (Gen. 15:20; 23:10; 25:9). At one time, scholars doubted that they had ever existed, because until the beginning of the 20th century, no extra-biblical evidence for the existence of the Hittites had been found. Then, in 1907, Hugo Winckler of Berlin excavated the empire of the Hittites in Asia Minor, and since then no one has doubted the existence of the Hittites.

● In the patriarchal stories we find several strange customs that were not understood until, from 1975 on, more than 4,000 clay tablets were found on the ancient site of Nuzi. The tablets, written about 1,500 B.C. illuminate the background of the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Siegried Horn listed some of the areas in which these tablets have helped us to better understand the biblical text.

“Other [Nuzi] texts show that a bride was ordinarily chosen for a son by his father, as the patriarchs did; that a man had to pay a dowry to his father-in-law, or to work for his father-in-law if he could not afford the dowry, as poor Jacob had to do; that the orally expressed will of a father could not be changed after it had been pronounced, as in Isaac’s refusal to change the blessings pronounced over Jacob even though they had been obtained by deception; that a bride ordinarily received from her father a slave girl as a personal maid, as Leah and Rachel did when they were married to Jacob; that the theft of cult objects or of a god was punishable by death, which was why Jacob consented to the death of the one with whom the stolen gods of his father-in-law were found.”3

Throughout the 20th century, many of the archaeological excavations in the Middle East have to a large degree confirmed and illustrated the Bible’s substantial historicity. Alan Millard of Liverpool University wrote: “The fact that what the Bible states often agrees with ancient practices is a good basis for a positive approach to the biblical record.”4

Scripture is self-authenticating. Jesus accepted the authority of the Old Testament, and the writers of the New Testament believed that what they recorded was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and was therefore authoritative. Even in matters of science and history, what Scripture teaches needs to be taken seriously. We should never forget that Jesus acknowledged the Scripture as authoritative and accepted its scientific and historical statements as factual.



1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this column are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.
2. The Faith I Live By, 15.
3. Siegfried H. Horn, “Recent Illumination of the Old Testament,” Christianity Today (June 21, 1968): 15.
4. Alan Millard, Discoveries From Bible Times (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1997), 14.