What is the purpose of the Bible

(Just to have a change from Science for a while)

What do people think the purpose of the bible is?
I am hoping to avoid discussions about authorship but it is probably a relevant tangent.

Here are a few suggestions:

Revelation - God showing Himself (or being discovered)
Propaganda - to promote a particular faith (although at least 3 claim origins from it)
History - regardless of religion it is the history of Israel (The world? Creation? God?)
Reference book - All the answers are here! Life…
Manual - how to approach, understand and worship God
Irrelevant- it has no meaning in the modern world

Maybe a combination of several? maybe you have a better one?

(for now I am not promoting any of the above)

History,and a little bit of propaganda.You should make this a poll

I’d go with revelation, history and manual. propaganda and reference book have confusing definition.
Propaganda, is confusing since propaganda implies lies, and I don’t think we can call it biased at least in perspective of Israël since it doesn’t really paint Israël in a good light.
And I don’t expect reference book to have all answers but to be all true in general cases.

For me the bible is to Christianity what the fundamental law of physics is to science. Its the starting point and fundamental and a reference sheet of our faith. The bible doesn’t contain everything about our relationship with God but its a reference to help evaluate if you are on the right track similar to physics, if your equation breaks the law of thermodynamic you are very likely to be wrong.

The tricky thing with this is we disagree on the interpretation of some passages.


The bible promotes a certain view of God and claims a definitive way to both approach and understand Him. (even the gender is dictated) There is no argument, God exists. And there is no unbiased presentation of material,

How does this differ from the definition of propaganda?

(just saying, not demonstrating a specifically personal view or opinion)


This is a nitpick but I think you will find that the gender of god is up to debate between male and non gender. Genesis does say that he created humanity in their image both male and female.

The problem with the definition is that, whilst it might be technically correct but this is also true of most communication to various degrees.
The non official definition (a.k.a. the stigma) is it is either a lie or highly misleading which is not what most of us would believe. I certainly don’t think it’s the objective.

I feel that the stigma is the only thing that propaganda bring which isn’t already in one of the 5 other categories.

A combinations of certain aspects of several of these:

Revelation, some history (a la Church History, not focused on other things), a reference book for moral and spiritual matters, but not physical ones, and a manual for the things you listed.

I tend to go with Revelation, but not just revelation about God, but also about ourselves and others, along with creation in general. You might lump it all together as Peter Enns did is saying it is about wisdom. I contains history, propaganda, art, instructions, maybe even rudimentary math and agriculture etc, but that is all secondary.
As I said somewhere before, it is like a chicken sandwich. It has some chicken in it, but it is not a chicken.


It is an uncomfortable thought, granted. But maybe one we have to either acknowledge or answer.


I think that is where I start from. Clearly there is art, history and so on, but I have tended to look at it primarily as understanding the relationship between God and at least part of humanity. I think the danger is declaring that it is the only understanding, or the only historic or even the only possible relationship with God.


The term theological history has become a helpful term for me. I’m also committed to an inerrantist reading of Scripture, but also understand it’s something reasonable people can disagree about. So that has a major impact on my view of religious authority.

My reasons for rejecting the “only way” understanding are pragmatic. It would be very hard to turn your back on generations of people who had followed a religion faithfully and then tell them they are all going to or have gone to, Hell. And it might even be churlish to suggest they do so.
As I see it, even from Scripture, God meets people where they are and as long as they have been true to themselves and their beliefs. It is that rather than the precise details that really matters.
I will admit to having difficulties with the public face of Islam, but I can also see how a disciplined and structured faith might appeal to some people and cultures. I believe that Christianity is right for me but that does not mean that I must impose it onto others.


The OT served as a springboard for Jesus. The NT shows His dive.

If they’ve been true to themselves (the revelation they received?) then they wouldn’t need Jesus as a Savior.

When looking at ancient peoples and their belief structures, I’ve found Michael Heiser’s divine council theory helpful to give respect where respect is due.

Er, um, I think that is what I am saying. Do we have the right to tell a culture they need Jesus?


PS if Jesus is divine then He must be part of the route to God (because He is a part of God). Possibly another get-out clause!

If they don’t need Jesus, then that means they can come to God on their own terms without any fear of judgement. Jesus said something to the effect that he came for sinners and not the righteous.

And again, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

I am pleased that works for you. What you need to understand is that it does not work for me, and many others. No matter how you extol or explain it. It does not fit with my understanding of both the Bible and God.
Does that make you right and me wrong (or vice versa)?
It means we cognisise and understand differently. God made us different so it is acceptable for us to think differently.
People seem to think of the truth as a specific point with no possible deviation. It is not. It is more like a pie to which we have certain slices. Others may have different slices. What we know or understand will depend as much on our make-up as culture, upbringing and so on.


I gave my answer to this question in the Unobservability of an Uncaused Cause thread, before you started this one I believe. I’ll copy it here.

“As special as it is to Christians, the Bible is a text composed of words, though I’ll grant they are inspired. But in my opinion the Bible should be regarded as a map of the whatever you want to call the something more many of us believe to be there beyond our direct control or wisdom. No map can or should replace the world. We can’t live in a map but we can use it to get where or how we want to want to be. Unlike Christians I do not think the Bible is the only inspired text or the only map to what is beyond our own limited reach.”

Based on other of your responses it looks as though you agree with me about the Bible not being the only map to the sacred. Sure wish I understood how you can think that and also feel the need to argue against any science which contradicts the Bible on a superficial naive reading of the text.

Decent description of post-modernism, thanks.

The purpose of the Bible is to tell the story of God and God’s people Israel. God’s people were reconciled to himself through the work of Christ, a work of reconciliation that opened the door for all humanity to reclaim their place as God’s children.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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