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Book Reviews

Book Review: “From God to Us” by Norman Geisler and William Nix

From God To Us (hereafter FGU) by Norman Geisler and William Nix provides a general introduction to a number of topics regarding the origins of the Bible. The book explores the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Bible from the earliest roots until the modern era.

Inspiration

FGU outlines the nature of inspiration. It is important to note that “it is only the product that is inspired, not the persons” (17). Another misconception is that inerrancy/inspiration applies to copies. The sense in which it does must be limited: “Only the autographic [original] texts themselves (or perfect copies of them) are inerrant… Every other copy is inspired only insofar as it is an accurate reproduction of the original” (18).

The authors then turn to a defense of inspiration through the Biblical teaching of inspiration. By outlining the way the text is treated as inspired in both the Old and New Testaments, the authors make a case for the general inerrancy of the autographic texts. Finally, the authors provide an argument for the Bible as the word of God (68ff). The argument is 12 steps and they provide a basic defense of each premise.

Canonization

One of the most frequent objections brought up offhand to those who hold to a high view of the inspiration of the Bible is that of the canon. Some say that the canon was just arbitrarily chosen by a church council somewhere, and that there is no way to determine how books got into the Bible.

FGU provides a more historically accurate look at the canon. The authors first outline a number of factors that are faulty for determining canonicity. For example, age alone cannot determine canonicty because some books of the Bible drew from contemporary sources.

In direct opposition to the notion that a council alone could determine the canon, FGU underscores the notion that: “the role of the Christian church… is not to determine which books are in the canon but to discover which books God determined should be in the canon, namely, those that He had inspired” (91). The authors then explore a number of factors which play into discovering the canon.

Historically, FGU explores the extent and formation of the Old Testament and New Testament canons. The arguments are concise and direct readers to further areas of exploration, while providing enough information to refute most basic arguments.

Transmission

The Bible had to be transmitted: namely, God’s word had to be communicated to human persons. How was this done? Largely in the form of written languages. FGU explores the importance of written language as a means of communication and provides a brief background in the development thereof (164ff).

Of great importance to the reader is the extensive material on the manuscripts of the Bible. The details of the manuscript tradition are outlined and even several forms of extrabiblical manuscript evidence is brought into the picture. Such evidence is an important part of a believers’ background of Bible knowledge. FGU also does a fantastic job outlining the foundations of textual criticism and the valuable role it can play in determining the accurate reading of the text (221ff).

One of the most enlightening parts of FGU outlines the nature of finding “errors” in the transmission of Scripture. Often, one will hear the claim that there are 100s of thousands of errors in the Bible. Bart Ehrman has, in particular, focused upon this in order to cause some unrest in the notion of the accuracy of the Bible (243). But these are actually variants in manuscripts which are sometimes counted numerous times:

If a single word were misspelled in 3,000 different manuscripts, they are counted as 3,000 variants… Ironically, the way Ehrman counts ‘errors’ (variants), there were 1.6 million errors in the first printing of his book. For there were 16 errors, and the book printed an alleged 100,000 copies… Ehrman himself admits the biblical variants do not affect the central message of the Bible. (243)

The authors then turn to an analysis of variant readings and how they occur, from misspellings and unintentional changes to corrections to try to bring texts into concord (246ff).

Translation

FGU provides an intense look at a number of ways the Bible has been translated and the way that translations happen. The traditions of translation are outlined and traced through history (280ff) and the importance of individual translations are analyzed.

Another extremely valuable part of the book is the analysis of how translations come about as far as the emphasis placed upon form-driven versions, meaning-driven versions, and paraphrases. Readers interested in modern Bible translations will find a wealth of resources for analyzing the varied translations. There are nearly 70 pages of information on these translations, so readers will have a number of points to discuss with those asking questions about translations.

Analysis

FGU is a huge resource for those interested in not just defending but learning about the Bible and how it has arrived in its current state in our pews. The book covers a number of issues and it will have appeal to both lay readers and interested professionals. Christian apologists will find a treasure trove of information about the background of the Bible which is often glossed or ignored in a number of apologetics resources.

The authors come from a decidedly conservative background, but this does not prevent them from a generally fair analysis of a number of topics. For example, though they seem critical of the so-called “gender accurate” language of TNIV, the analysis of the translation is objective and simply outlines how the translation comes to its current form (350-353).

Conclusion

Norman Geisler and William Nix have provided a solid resource with From God to Us. It will appeal to those who want to get a lengthy introduction to a number of relevant apologetical issues related to the Bible. Furthermore, it provides a significant amount of background on various translations of the Bible. What is most surprising about the book is how it manages to provide so much information without becoming too dense or thin. It covers so many issues that the danger would seem to be either to err on the side of being too long or too brief on each issue. The authors admirably do not stray to either side, and in doing so, have provided an invaluable resource for both the interested lay reader and professional.

SDG.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

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