Word of God vs. Eyewitness Accounts

Christian groups, like Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and others, accept the Bible as the literal Word of God. This view is often summed up as:

“God said it, I believe it, that settles it”.

In other words, any passage in the Bible should be taken as if the words proceeded directly from God’s mouth. They don’t all agree on how words from God got written into the Bible. Some theorize that God dictated the text word-for-word to the various authors of the Bible and the authors faithfully recorded the words.

Other theories, like Verbal, Plenary Inspiration, are a bit more nebulous in that no one is really willing to say exactly what they mean by “inspiration”. Nevertheless, this theory also holds that every word in the Bible proceeds (somehow) directly from God. The Christian Faith website presents a succinct summary this belief.

These same Christian groups claim that the Gospels are first-hand eyewitness accounts. They believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are reporting their own first-hand, eyewitness accounts of their encounters with Jesus. They are reporting what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Since eyewitness accounts virtually always vary from person to person, the accounts in the different Gospels are different as we should expect. These accounts, though different and at times conflicting, are nevertheless compelling evidence of the historicity and the nature of Jesus. You and I should believe that Jesus is the Son of God based in part on these eyewitness accounts.

An eyewitness account by its very definition cannot be the Word of God.

If the words in the eyewitness accounts come from God, then the words are not the evangelist’s own eyewitness account. If the words are the evangelists own personal account, then the words are not God’s words. The two claims are incompatible: either all words in the Bible are from God (and there are no eyewitness accounts from the Evangelists), or the Bible contains eyewitness accounts which are not God’s words.

Of course it is also possible that words in the Bible do not come from God and that the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts. Those two claims are perfectly compatible.

5 Responses to Word of God vs. Eyewitness Accounts

  1. If it’s all about witnesses then Mormonism is the closest to being verified isn’t it? Witnesses saw the “golden plates” from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

    Of course, that doesn’t make it real.

    Lillian, author of: My Name is Lillian & I’m an Alcoholic (and an Atheist)
    Avaliable on Kindle:
    http://www.amazon.com/Name-Lillian-Alcoholic-Atheist-ebook/dp/B0046REOUK/

  2. The Atheist says:

    Claims that eyewitnesses saw the Gold Bible is a much weaker testimony than claims that eyewitnesses saw Jesus perform miracles. Even if we accepted that a few people really saw the plates, their accounts don’t give us reason to accept the divine origin of the plates. But credible eyewitness accounts of Jesus performing miracles would be an important testimony.

  3. lolocaust says:

    1. Why does all and not just some of it have to be one or the other?
    2. If god is saying it and prophets are hearing it and writing it down the way it is in the King James and newer English versions, where Gog is referred to in the third person, then it is an eyewitness account, but God could have manipulated its contruction, ensuring that it is what God would say if he saw himself doing stuff so it is both.
    3. The bible is a set of observations and divine inspiration which can either be accepted or not, but no documentation of modern day miracles is any more verifiable

  4. lolocaust says:

    lol i said Gog

  5. The Atheist says:

    Hi lolocaust.

    Q1: “Why does all and not just some of it have to be one or the other?”

    A1: I agree, It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. But those who make both of these claims, that “the Gospels are eyewitness accounts the Bible is the Word of God” are reticent to admit that not every word in the Bible is the literal Word of God.

    Q2: “…it is an eyewitness account, but God could have manipulated its construction, ensuring that it is what God would say if he saw himself doing stuff so it is both.”

    A2: If you say that God manipulated the words, then you can say that it is God’s Words, but you can no longer say that they are the author’s words and therefore you can’t say that it is an eyewitness account. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone claim that God was the eyewitness for the eyewitness accounts.

    Q3: “The bible is a set of observations and divine inspiration”

    A3: If the Bible contains observations made by the authors, then those observations are the authors’ words and not God’s Words.

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