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"I have heard many pastors on online and in sermons make the statement that the bible is inexhaustible. I am trying to wrap my mind around that. Isn't it a finite book. can't you know what it says completely?

I would love for it to be inexhaustible because I love to learn new things about God and Heaven etc. Maybe people make the claim that it is inexhaustible because it shows us how to have a relationship with God and he is Infinite.

Can you shed any light on this?"

Disclaimer: The above question was asked on my church's website by a seeker. I have some definite ideas about this, but I would like some input from the community.

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Can you please add at least one link explaining the context? I would like to know what is meant by "Bible is inexhaustible". I assume they mean from a sermon point of view - an infinite amount of possible sermons? –  Wikis Dec 4 '12 at 10:11
    
I'm not sure, but I'm testing this claim. ;-) –  Jon Ericson Dec 4 '12 at 22:43
    
@Wikis, I am unsure of the questioner's source for this term, but my inclination is that he is referring to an inexhaustible source of wisdom, knowledge ect. Perhaps an infinite number of possible sermons would be a result of the inexhaustible nature of the the Holy Spirit reveals things to us through the scriptures. –  Joleolsen Dec 4 '12 at 23:45
    
@JonEricson, there is some great info in your possible duplicate, but that question doesn't answer why or how the Bible might be an inexhaustible source. –  Joleolsen Dec 4 '12 at 23:48
    
Rereading that Why is the Bible so short? and it's answers, I see you are correct. It's not really a duplicate. But it's closely related in that the Bible particularly rewards deep, rather than broad, reading. –  Jon Ericson Dec 5 '12 at 0:37

4 Answers 4

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When we talk about the Bible from a Christian point of view (and especially as men preach about it), we cannot separate the Bible itself (a collection of words) from the power of the Holy Spirit who not only inspired its writing, but who also gives light to us as we read and hear the words.

We can live our whole lives reading the Bible, and the Holy Spirit can continue to shed increasing light on what we understand the Bible to say about who God is and the great works he has done.

Is the Bible a finite book with a finite number of words that have specific meanings? Yes. But we do not get wisdom from the Bible without the work of the Holy Spirit teaching us. And the God that the Bible speaks of and the Holy Spirit shines light on is truly infinite.

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It seems pretty clear that the Bible is inexhaustible to anyone who has experienced its power. The scriptures have no bottom in that there is no end (in this life) to the increasing knowledge of God's glory and grace which we will gain in studying it.

Some books have a bottom. For example, one could read mathematics books over and over until the reader knows more about the subject than most books explain. That is, his knowledge would surpass the knowledge conveyed in the book.

The Bible is obviously not like this. No man can ever know what is revealed in it anywhere near to its depth. Strictly speaking I would not say it is infinite (as written in ink) for in heaven we might know more about Christ's glory than what is strictly written, but at least on this side of heaven we can't know how far we have understood even after living a hundred years in intense study of it.

I suspect the most knowledgeable and wise man knowns less than 1% of what is deposited in the riches of the scriptures upon which we also requires the illumination of the Holy Spirit to perceive aright.

I suppose one of the reasons for why it has no bottom is that it reveals God's mind on things that humans could not otherwise discover on their own thinking, study, or scientific exploration. Furthermore, what it has revealed it reveals in a way where personal experience with God is necessary in understanding it along the natural endless growth of that relationship. Also, love and truth are not separate, so the Bible demands thought emotions and a spiritual sense to coincide in a unity of living soul to form a proper understanding through a spiritual tasting and experience of the truth in Christ. It is not just a subject of natural study but is life itself.

For more in-depth reasons on how inexhaustible and infallible the scriptures are, I have previously posted here (for any that might be interested in a long read): If the Bible has been changed over the years, can we still trust it?

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+1 for not infinite, but greater depths than we will ever plumb in this life. –  Caleb Dec 4 '12 at 11:16

Part of the inexhaustible nature of the Bible is that it acts as glasses that allow one to see things in the visible world more clearly and correctly (e.g., Psalm 19:1a "The heavens declare the glory of God" [NIV]) counteracting tendencies to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) and as a hearing aid that allows us to more clearly and correctly hear the Holy Spirit (who not only inspired Scripture but works through Scripture [2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12]).

Creation is effectively inexhaustible from the perspective of a single human mind (and reflects the truly inexhaustible glory of God) and the Holy Spirit is inexhaustible from any perspective.

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If the Bible were merely an ordinary book, then its contents would be as exhaustible as any other book. However, the Bible declares itself to be anything but an ordinary book. Specifically, it describes itself as "living and active".

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 ESV

Furthermore, a principle in Luke 6:45 is that a person's words reveals the heart of that person.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

If, then, the words of God reveal the very heart of God Himself, then the Word of God is, in fact, inexhaustible, as God Himself is infinite.

Isaiah also speaks of how God's understanding is unsearchable:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28 ESV

So, from a Biblical perspective, the Bible, as the very words of God which reveal the nature of God, is, as a result, inexhaustible.

Since God is infinite, it will take an eternity to get to know Him fully. Fortunately, He has promised to give us exactly that amount of time to be with Him in Heaven.

As a side note, however, it is likely only inexhaustible for people who are actually Christians. Many believers attest to the fact that prior to their conversion to Christianity, the Bible was a confusing, lifeless, incomprehensible book, yet it came alive to them after their conversion. Paul hints at this phenomenon:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

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It's a common mistake to assume that references to "the word of God" are always referring to the Bible, but that frequently isn't the case. –  DJClayworth Dec 4 '12 at 16:03
    
@DJClayworth The words of God are not limited to, but do include the Bible. –  Narnian Dec 4 '12 at 16:04
    
The fact that God is inexhaustible (which several of your quotes actually mean) doesn't mean that the Bible is inexhaustible. –  DJClayworth Dec 4 '12 at 16:05
    
That is precisely my point. The word of God (Bible plus other stuff) is inexhaustible, but that doesn't mean the Bible is inexhaustible. –  DJClayworth Dec 4 '12 at 16:07
    
I don't understand the down votes. This is precisely the type of answer I was hoping for. Is it the distinction between Word of God (Logos) vs word of God (Bible)? Isn't it the unlimited nature of God in the person of the Holy Spirit that uses the written word of God as an inexhaustible source of revelation to us? That being the case, is it incorrect to say that for a believer the Bible is inexhaustible? –  Joleolsen Dec 4 '12 at 23:39

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