First of all, the Bible is the result of God's act where he inspired various people to write different books of the Bible over a period of about 1500 years. The Old Testament has 39 books1 written in Hebrew, and the New Testament has 27 books written in Greek. The New Testament tells us that Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and that the Holy Spirit is the one who moves people in this process of writing (2 Pet. 1:21). Second, the people of God, the Jews in the Old Testament period and the Christians in the New Testament period, recognized what is and is not the word of God. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." This means that the Christians (the sheep) hear God's voice in the manifestation of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. They accepted those books that we now have today in the Bible because God worked though the Church to give us the New Testament. Therefore, the Bible comes from those who are moved by the Holy Spirit both to write and to recognize God's word.
In the Old Testament, God moved various Jews to write the books. These men were recognized as prophets because they were often able to work miracles which verified the authority given to them by God. In the New Testament period, the criteria by which canonicity was determined was basically as follows. First, the documents needed to be penned by the apostles of Jesus or those who were under the apostles' direction. Second, the writings had to demonstrate authoritative style and theological orthodoxy consistent with other writings held to be inspired from God. Third, Christians recognized the writings as authoritative within the church.
Are the Biblical Documents Transmitted to us trustworthy?
Because the Bible is inspired by God, it is necessarily inerrant in the original writings. God doesn't make mistakes. This means that the direct writing of the original documents were without error. However, it is true that the copies of these ancient documents are not perfect. There are copyist errors, but this does not mean the entire Bible is untrustworthy. Both the Jews and the Christians took extreme care when copying the biblical documents. Those whose reproduced Scripture considered the work one of the most important things to do. They considered it to be the very word of God, so they were meticulous and extremely careful when copying and would not add opinions or reconstructions of text from memory. But small errors did happen, though infrequently. In fact, we have so many copies of New Testament documents that have been spread throughout the ancient Mediterranean area that we can reconstruct the originals to almost 100% accuracy. The Bible is extremely reliable.
- 1. In 1546 the Roman Catholic Church added seven books to the Bible in response to the Protestant Reformation. They are Tobit, Judith, Maccabees 1 and 2 Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch.