In chapter 10, six measures for quantitatively evaluating information (especially its semantics) were identified, namely semantic quality, relevance, timeliness, accessibility, existence, and comprehensibility. Let us now investigate the role of these parameters in the Bible.
1. Semantic quality q: The special semantic quality of the Bible is characterized as follows:
—It is divine: “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD” (Jer. 7:1). “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11–12).
—It is true: “O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy” (2 Samuel 7:28). “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
—It comprises the message of man’s salvation: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13).
2. Relevance r: The message of the Bible is important for each and every person, because God’s judgment is the same for everybody: “For no one living is righteous” (Psalm 143:2); “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even so, God has provided one way of salvation for everybody through His Son Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Numerous other passages point in the same direction, for example, John 3:16; John 3:18; John 14:6; 1 John 5:12. Our profit is maximized when we correctly estimate the relevance. The attitude of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:4–9) and the Philadelphians (Revelation 3:7–11) is highly commended in this respect.
The Bible very explicitly warns against an erroneous evaluation of its relevance, because then one will suffer the greatest possible loss. Paul and Barnabas told the people of Jerusalem, “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). The rich wheat farmer made plans for his life without considering God, and was told, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20). The rich man in hell (Luke 16:19–31) was not lost because of his wealth—Abraham and Job had been richer—but because he misjudged the relevance of the information at his disposal.
3. Timeliness t: Certain passages of the Bible represent some of the most ancient extant writings known to man. All the authors (excluding Luke) belonged to an insignificant, small nation of the Middle East. In the light of these facts, one might conclude that such a book could now only be of historical interest, and its contents would have been outdated long ago. One may expect that people belonging to the same nation as the authors might regard it as being of cultural interest. In spite of all such considerations, millions of people all over the world concern themselves with this Book. It is read and loved, irrespective of age, language, and level of education. No other book in history is so timely and relevant. What is the reason? Martin Luther commented, “The Bible is not an antique, neither is it modern; it is eternal.”
The message of the Bible is relevant for all times. It is always up-to-date and topical because of its eternal dimension. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus expresses it thus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” In this world, everything is perishable, except the Word: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). God’s Word is thus always up-to-date because of its exceptional nature. The word “today” is often mentioned in the Bible, but its applicability has never been lost over thousands of years.
Joshua entreated the Israelites: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15a), and even now God calls us in the same way. What a great blessing is entailed when we give the same reply as Joshua: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). When Zacchaeus experienced a complete change in his life after meeting Jesus, Christ told him, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). This blessing is ours also, today, when we turn to Jesus. When you have done this, you will continuously be nourished by the up-to-date Word of God: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
4. Accessibility a: At present, the total volume of knowledge is doubled every seven years. For electrical technology, this period is five years, and it is even less in the case of information technology. If a scientist really wants to keep abreast, he will have to spend 100 hours every day just reading, which is impossible. It becomes very difficult, and sometimes impossible, to find relevant information in the present knowledge explosion. Access has become problem number one. In the case of the Bible, the situation is quite different: The wisdom it contains is complete and permanent, and there is thus an essential distinction between it and human knowledge. God’s information is contained in one book so that we can have easy and complete access to it. This access, through continuous use, has been commanded by God:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8).
“O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD!”(Jeremiah 22:29).
““Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).
In addition, we are encouraged to read the Bible through the exemplary witness of others. “Now the Bereans . . . received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day” (Acts 17:11). The Psalmist longs for the word (Psalm 119:81), because he finds renewal (Psalm 119:25), strength (Psalm 119:28), hope, and salvation (Psalm 119:81).
5. Existence e: There is one further important question: Does the Bible really contain all the information required for knowing God and ourselves, to live according to God’s standards, and to achieve His eternal purpose? All important questions are answered clearly and unambiguously, but critics and doubters introduce uncertainties and vagueness. Spurgeon rightly concluded that “Nothing is easier than doubting. A poorly educated person with mediocre abilities can raise more doubts than can be resolved by the cleverest men of science from all over the world.”
Because of the completeness of the biblical message, we may not delete anything from this message nor add anything (Revelation 22:18–19), and for every interpretation the fundamental rule holds: “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
6. Comprehensibility c: This has already been discussed in paragraph 14.1 under “biblical concepts.”
We can now formulate the following highly significant conclusions:
—The Bible contains the most important information conceivable. It is divine in essence, and indicates the way to our Father’s house.
—The relevance value of the information of the Bible for every person is r = 1, the highest possible value. It comprises the best advice for this life, and is the only compass that guides us to heaven.
– The information of the Bible is always up-to-date (t = 1). Whereas most scientific publications become outdated after ten years,1 the Bible can never become outdated.
—We can readily access the information of the Bible (a = 1). It can be obtained all over the world, and the contents are easy to understand.
—The information of the Bible is comprehensive and complete (e = 1).
—No false information is contained in the Bible; it is the only Book of truth (John 17:17).
—We find the highest semantic density of information in the Bible, as well as the best pragmatic information (commandments, rules of living, and our relationship with God and other people). It comprises the highest possible apobetics, namely an invitation to enter heaven!