Wasn’t the Bible passed down verbally from generation to generation before it was written?

A common misconception about the Bible is that it was passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation before it was written, so therefore it must be the words of men, and unreliable. If the Bible is man’s writing, then it deserves no more credit or attention than any other great book. In the final analysis, what we believe about the Bible will determine our attitude about it and in large part set the spiritual tone for our lives. The truth is, the Bible did not come by the will of man, but holy men of God wrote the very words of God.

Although many people say the Bible was passed down verbally from generation to generation before it was written, there is no proof this actually occurred. All those who wrote the Bible are long dead, and there are no testimonies from them or people they spoke with saying that all they did was write down the family histories and campfire stories that had come down to them. Can it be proven that the men who wrote the Bible just put down oral traditions on paper? It cannot. So when people say the Bible was passed down from generation to generation, they are just stating a theory. There is no actual proof to substantiate it.

Are there reasons we should reject the theory that the biblical records were passed by word of mouth for generations before being written? Certainly. Anyone who studies the history of oral traditions knows that details get lost, names and places are forgotten or replaced, and there is a tendency to exaggerate, either for better or worse, such that the good guys become very good and the bad guys become evil incarnate. The Bible is written in a way that shows it is not just a book of oral traditions. The characters are depicted in ways that are inspiring, heartwarming, true to life, convincing, and convicting. They have their good points and their human weaknesses. In reading about them we read about ourselves, because their humanity is so well portrayed in Scripture. Furthermore, the details, place names, and geographical descriptions in the Bible are written with the accuracy of an involved and knowledgeable eyewitness. That eyewitness is God. The richness, depth, and historical accuracy of Scripture are in sharp contrast to the exaggerations, the historical inaccuracies, and the shallow and one-dimensional portrayals of characters in legends, folk history, and mythology.

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2 comments

  1. 2 Thessalonians 2:15
    American Standard Bible (NASB)

    15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [a]from us.

    1. Good point

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