Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.
– Philippians 3:1
Some people wonder why there is so much repetition in the Bible. We could also ask, relative to yesterday’s devotion, why ideas are stated in different words (e.g. direct quotes and paraphrase). Paul gives an answer to these questions in the passage above, but I’ll get back to that in a minute.
First, let’s acknowledge that there’s lots of repetition in the Bible because it was not written at one time by one author. On the contrary, it was written over the course of about 1,600 years by some forty different people. And, of course, “it” wasn’t written at all…because each of them was writing their own individual text. All these texts became the Bible only when they were gathered together – the word “Bible” coming from the ancient Greek word “biblos” meaning simply “book.” Some redundancy is, therefore, to be expected.
Moreover, when it comes to important systems, redundancy is actually sought. Don’t people install generators for those times when the electricity fails? Doesn’t the military build systems that have back-up systems? Yes and yes. This is the point Paul is making in the passage above – redundancy is good for us because it makes us surer of what we’re sure of.
As Paul also wrote:
This is the third time I am coming to you. EVERY FACT IS TO BE CONFIRMED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.
– 2 Corinthians 13:1
Paul is quoting the Old Testament, which established the principle that in critical matters it was appropriate to have more than one witness. Even classical journalism demands that a story have at least two sources to be credible for readers.
When it comes to the most important subject in the Bible – Jesus Christ – we have four gospels. The first three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) bear a lot of similarities but the fourth (John) takes a different approach. Yet all four combine to assert the same essentials truths about His life, death, and resurrection.
Therefore, the multiplicity of witnesses and the repetitions of their testimony in various words, phrasings, and contexts all combine to assure us – greatly assure us – of the truth claims these writers are making.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, thank You for the abundance of testimony You have provided for us to believe You…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)