Let’s say you’re going to make up a story. A grand story. A story that’s going to span centuries with a cast of characters that numbers into the thousands. This story is going to be so big, that it’ll require several authors working with you – dozens in fact. And it’s going to take a long time to write. Generations will pass before it’s done. How are you going to plan for that?
I’m currently editing a novella collection about three brothers, but it’s on a much smaller scale. The stories are all set in the same town and share a lot of the same characters, but a different author is writing each individual brother’s story.
A project like this takes planning. Before these ladies started writing, they set down names, places, and characters. Together they matched the stories of these brothers so that they made sure that what was said in one story lined up with the next story. They each know what had happened to the youngest brother when he was in high school. They each know how the middle brother got hurt and why the oldest brother had to come home.
These women are all Americans living in 2016. They all speak English and have studied writing at the same conferences in the same industry. They’ve collaborated on the project since the beginning. Seems like it’d be pretty easy for them to get their story straight, right?
When the three stories came in, as good as they were, there were inconsistencies throughout. Things that had been decided at the onset had been altered slightly, but minor changes over three stories meant mistakes. And while character names and their histories were agreed on, often the characters were unrecognizable across the different submissions. Someone who was somber and introspective in one story was playful and outgoing in the next.
Having taken part in a continuity collection myself, I know these issues aren’t unique to these wonderful authors. They are merely details that have to be ironed out, which happens with every work. Nothing unusual about mistakes. In fact, it’s expected.
Just imagine, however, if the authors hadn’t talked before they wrote their stories, and yet all the stories matched up? That would be unusual. And can you imagine if forty-some authors wrote a collection of books over a span of fifteen-hundred years – authors who had never met, authors who lived under different governments, different nations, and who spoke different languages – and their stories told a consistent story?
That would be a miracle.
That would be our Bible.
I’ve always heard the facts about this holy compilation – about how God inspired men from various backgrounds and various occupations to pen His story. It wasn’t until I collaborated with other authors that I realized how challenging it is to “get our stories straight.” It wasn’t until I edited a collection, that I realized how many different ways there are to get it wrong.
The only way the Bible came to be, amid all the obstacles, is that in a greater sense the Book was not really written by men after all. Indeed, as 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Sometimes we think that if we only had a word from God, we would know what to do. But we do have it. The Word of God is in our homes, on our phones, and hopefully in our hearts.
The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) is the same Spirit that ultimately authored Scripture. There really is no other explanation for the coherency of the work. And if a God that powerful has set down a message for you, how will you respond?
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” – John 6:68