In brief, Bibliology is "The Doctrine of Scripture". To study the doctrine of scripture you'll need four words: Revelation, Inspiration, Illumination and Canonization. One word you might want to add would be the precursor to Bibliology: Apologetics. One aspect of apologetics attempts to provide evidence for the bible being trustworthy. "Bibliology begins where apologetics ends…"1
Apologetically speaking there are an enormous quantity of evidences to sift through and consider but the Bible can readily be proven to be an historically reliable document. Because I'm not doing apologetics here, I will simply state that the Bible consists of 66 individual books written by at least 40 authors over an estimated 2000 years, focused on a relatively narrow subject and yet contains no inconsistencies. It is true that many opponents of the scriptures claim there are inconsistencies but each one is readily answered with an honest appraisal and careful scrutiny of the historical and literary context combined with the original intent of the author.
If we begin with the assumption that the Bible is trustworthy then Bibliology is the summary of what the Bible says about itself.
There is much to learn about God, most of it we can't know if we're not told. Revelation is just that: God revealing himself to us. There are three main "types" of Revelation alluded to in the Bible.
First there is Natural Revelation (Psalm 19:1-3) which means that we can learn something about God by simply observing nature.
Second there is Special Revelation (John 21:25; ) Whenever God would give a specific message to someone, something truly miraculous had happened "“ God had revealed something "special". The Bible frequently talks about many prophets of God but only about 17 of them actually wrote scripture. The rest gave message from God which were limited to a single event and time. (Deuteronomy 29:29; Revelation 10:3-4)
Third is Written Revelation (Jeremiah 36:4; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Technically written revelation is just one part of Special Revelation, yet because it endures beyond a specific time and situation and was recorded for us, I believe it deserves to be listed separately. This written revelation is the Bible. How we got it involves what we call "Inspiration".
Start with 2 Peter 1:21 and read it, thinking about what it means for how we got our Bible. Inspiration basically means that the Holy Spirit so controlled the authors of scripture so that what they wrote was God's word to the very letter. We know that inspiration does not mean dictation because the different authors have clearly distinct writing styles. God used the internal characteristics of the individual authors to convey his message to us. So God wrote through people – that's inspiration. But he also teaches us what the Bible means, that's Illumination.
Look back one verse in 2 Peter 1:20. Whatever the word of God says, it doesn't just say what we want it to. Understanding God's word is God's work in us as we read (Psalm 119:18; John 14:26; 1 John 2:27). God revealed his word, God guided men to write his word, and God helps us understand his word. But how do we know today what is his word?
The word "Canon" has nothing to do with really big guns mounted on pirate ships. It comes from a Greek word (ÎºÎ±Î½Ï‰ÌÎ½) meaning: "straight stick" or better yet, "Measuring Rod". When we talk about the straight stick of scripture then, we mean that the Bible is the collection of books which we recognize as authoritative by which we may measure our lives.
The Canon is not a man-made list of books that we like, it is a list of books which we recognize as God's word. God's word would be God's word even if we didn't believe it was. The short story is that Men wrote the Bible as the Holy Spirit moved them. At the moment the ink was on the papyrus it was God's word. In most cases people instantly recognized that what was written was God's word (2 Peter 3:15-16). But it took time for that letter or book to get copied by hand and passed around by foot. But the final list of Bible books was coalesced very early in church history in order to help stop the spread of false teaching.
We call it the Bible, the Good Book, the Scriptures and we frequently tack the adjective "Holy" on to the title. Whatever you do call it, the Bible is God's word, his message to humans. It contains many different types of literature each of which communicates something different about God and about us. Ultimately it speaks of Jesus (Luke 24:27). The purpose of the Bible is to guide us to God. Reading and studying the Bible then is the best way to learn from the source about the source: God.
Psalm 119:18 "Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law."
Questions For Personal Study:
- Look again at Psalm 19 which begins with Natural Revelation. What can you learn about God by looking at nature? Try to get at least seven individual lessons/examples.
- What is the difference between Special Revelation in general and Written Revelation?
- Think about Inspiration and Illumination; can people learn truth from the scriptures without God's help? Explain your answer.
- What is the meaning of "Canon"?
- Do you treat the Bible as "Canon?"
- Finish this statement: "The more you study the Bible…"
- Thinking of Jesus' conversation on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24:27; could you think of different ways that the Bible talks about Jesus? See if you can find three stories in the Old Testament and find out how they point to Jesus.