The Writing Style of the Bible

THE WRITING STYLE OF THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     In a literature class, students learn that there are peculiar marks of style in writing which identify a certain work as belonging to a particular author. "Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets" (Exodus 32:16). As Moses brought the tables of stone with the ten commandments down from the mountain, there was something about the writing which characterized them as having come from God. In a more general sense, the same things is true of the whole Bible. As we study the style of writing, what are some of the qualities that separate it from secular literature?

     The first is the amazing calmness and brevity of the Bible in recording the most stupendous events and tragedies, which are unlike anything written by men. The creation covers just two chapters (Genesis 1-2). The flood covers but three chapters (Genesis 6-8). In fact, the first 2,500 plus years of man’s existence are found in the fifty chapters of one book, Genesis. The life of Christ is told in only four short books. The miracles of Christ are summed up on two verses (John 20:30-31). The death of Christ takes eight chapters, and His resurrection five. The establishment of the church is found in one chapter. Compare this calm reserve with the volumes written on the lives of Lincoln, Kennedy, and Churchill; with the tendency toward excitement about natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes which we read in magazines; or with even how wordy a newspaper account of an important sports event can be. The Bible’s way of describing things is different.

     Second, the complete impartiality of its writers is unlike human authors. Noah became drunk (Genesis 6:20-24). Abraham lied (Genesis 12.10-20). David committed adultery (2 Samuel 11.1-27). The nationalistic prophet Jonah fled his responsibility (Jonah 1.1-3). Peter cowardly denied Christ (Matthew 26.69-75). Paul was a blasphemer before obeying the gospel (1 Timothy 1:12-15). These weaknesses and sins are never excused nor condoned; they are always rebuked and condemned. Yet the candidness in the statements of the errors and frailties of even the greatest heroes, without their becoming prurient, is unique in the histories of the world.

     Third, even the omissions of the Bible raise it above the level of the writings of men and set it apart from purely human productions. The childhood of Jesus is stated in few words, leaving out many years of his early life (Luke 2.39-52). There is no physical description of Christ, apart from allusions to His humanity (Isaiah 53:2, Philippians 2:8). Many details of His life are not recorded (John 21:25). Even the book which records the lives and work of the apostles contains only some of the acts of some of the apostles; others are hardly even mentioned. Very simply, the Bible is not given over to satisfying idle human curiosity as the works of men often are.

     Therefore, we conclude that the Bible is not like men’s books. It must something different. Therefore, the evidence tends to confirm its claim to be a special divine revelation. A fair and impartial study of the writings of the Bible themselves becomes one of the best arguments for this proposition. It is more reasonable that such a book with these sublime characteristics is the product of one Divine mind rather than the product of so many human minds over such a long period of time. (—taken from With All Boldness; January, 1998; Vol. 8, No. 1; p. 15)

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