Inspired or Manspired
by Don R. Camp
The Bible is a collection of scribbles of Bronze Age goat herders.
I don't know how many times I have heard that or something like
it. It is crazy, but it tells me one thing: These guys have never
read the Bible. I don't mean that they have never tried to choke
it down in search of reasons to dump it. I mean really read it, as
literature if not through the eyes of a believer.
Now, the issue is not whether the Bible is
literature, good bad or ugly. It is whether the Bible is from God.
But the literary aspect of the Bible leads to that more serious
issue, so I begin there.
The Bible contains pieces, the various books,
some of which have been universally recognized as literature equal
to the best from either ancient or modern times. Job is perhaps
the oldest piece. It is a dialogue between four men, Job and his
friends, as they search for the reason calamity has happened to
this man Job, who from all appearances is a good and upright man.
It is the universal question: Why do bad things happen to good
people? And it is done with deep perception of the human condition
and done artistically in wonderful poetry and careful
Psalms is a collection songs, most of
them lyrical poems, that probe with beauty and grace the same
kinds of question that we encounter as human beings everywhere and
at every time. In artistic style they can only be be
compared to the best poetry men and women have ever produced.
I could go on. In every book there are the
marks of intelligence, artistry, and wisdom. So the scribbles of
Bronze Age goat herders the Bible is definitely not.
But it is not the elegance of the pieces that
commend the Bible to us as inspired by God. It is the Bible
considered as a whole that demonstrates inspiration.
The Bible is one book and one story. It
is comprised of what we might better describe as 63 chapters
(Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles were written as single books, not
in two parts). But it is one book.
That one story displays the unity,
coherence, and plot that we would expect of a single
story. And it does so with unusual elegance as it combines a
variety of genres into the one story. I have been a student of
literature since I worked on a degree in English literature in
college. I taught world literature for fifteen years to high
school students. I have also studied the Bible as literature from
the time I began to see the Bible as literature, earning a post
grad degree in the Bible about 25 years ago. I am convince that
the Bible is unique in all of world literature.
But as a story? As a story it has all the
features we have come to expect of a story. It begins with an exposition
in which the setting, backstory, characters, and conflict
are introduced. It has an antagonist, who is introduced as
the serpent in Genesis 3. It anticipates the appearance of the protagonist,
the offspring of the woman, also in Genesis 3.
The story continues as the conflict
develops in what is called rising action, and suspense
builds with new clues about the appearance of the protagonist.
There are times when the antagonist
appears about to win by preventing the appearance of the protagonist.
The suspense builds as does the tension of the conflict
until the protagonist is revealed, the Messiah, who
promises to overcome the serpent and establish a new kingdom of
which he will be the King. BTW this is the realization of many
moments in the story when this Messiah is foreshadowed.
The battle is joined in the gospels, and the
serpent seems to win. But no. In a fascinating plot twist the
Messiah who has been killed returns to life. This is the crisis
or climax of the story, the point at which the plot turns
The serpent seems now to be defeated. But there
follows as in most stories a period of falling action in
which the conflicts are resolved as the King extends his kingdom.
Finally, there is a showdown (the book of
Revelation) in which the final battle between the serpent and the
Messiah occurs. It is the final resolution. The serpent is
defeated and in the denouement of the story the Messiah's
kingdom is established forever while the serpent is punished
The Bible is the story of human history from
the beginning to the not yet realized end. It is what we expect in
a well constructed story.
But the surprise is that this story is written
by dozens of different human writers over a period of about 1000
years. These writers have no idea that they are writing a story
other than the stories of their individual chapters. Many are
writing with no knowledge of the outcome of the story. Yet they foreshadow
the future with great detail.
The author or this story cannot be one of the
human authors, nor can the resulting unified story be the product
of an editor because most of the story (the Old Testament) was
collected by editors before the story was completed. And the
collection of New Testament books (chapters) was done not on the
basis of how they fit the story but on whether there was a
consensus among Christians that they were inspired.
And all of this is written in virtually every literary
genre and incorporates virtually all the classic rhetorical
tropes and schemes we find in the best literature of our day
and with extreme elegance, so I am truly amused when someone
with no knowledge of or training in literature claims the bible
was written by bronze age goat herders.
There is no other book like this. It is a
miracle. And it is evidence for an author who is divine and who
not only knows the future but writes the story of the future.
There can be no other author but God.