What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About the Bible?
The Bible forms the foundation for all that Seventh-day Adventists believe and teach. It reveals God to us and is our final authority on all issues relating to morals, doctrine, salvation, and the very nature and purpose of life itself (Isaiah 8:20).
In fact, it was in-depth Bible study that spurred the Advent Movement that later became the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This page explains how Adventists prioritize the Bible and apply the Scriptures within. It’ll cover:
How is the Bible the Word of God?
Adventists believe that the Bible is the written Word of God because God inspired its writers to reveal the truths about Himself, history, salvation, and the parts of the future He wants us to know (2 Peter 1:21). It also gives us His principles for a satisfying life (John 10:10; Matthew 4:4).
We accept what is called “thought inspiration,” as opposed to “verbal inspiration.”
But what does this mean?
This means that God didn’t verbally dictate every word of Scripture to the authors.
They weren’t tape recorders who simply took dictation from heaven, though in some cases, certain authors were instructed to write concepts down word for word (usually preceded with “thus saith the Lord”).
Most of the time, however, those who were “moved by the Holy Spirit” wrote down the truths God had given them, using their own voice and style and situated within their specific cultural and historical context (Jeremiah 3:20; 2 Peter 1:21).
Thought inspiration explains the wide variety of styles found in the Bible—everything from the poetry of David in the Psalms to the deep theological writings of the apostle Paul. All these books were written in the styles of the individual authors as the Holy Spirit guided them.
God inspired authors of varying ages, personalities, perspectives, genders, social statuses, and economic statuses so that we could learn about Him from different viewpoints and situations:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB).
Here’s how the first fundamental belief of the Adventist Church expresses the priority of the Bible:
“The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. . . .
The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.
They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.”
Keep reading to understand more about how Adventists view the Bible.
The infallibility of Scripture
Because we believe the Bible is the Word of God, Adventists accept the infallibility of Scripture (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).
This term tells us that what the Bible teaches about history, salvation, prophecy, and last-day events is always correct.
At the same time, we understand it’s possible for minor mistakes in copying to have happened throughout the ages. After all, the Bible you have is only a copy of a copy of the original manuscript.
However, these discrepancies have always been relatively insignificant and have never changed the essential meaning of the text. God wouldn’t let that happen.
The underlying principles in Scripture stand firm. They are God’s perfect revelation of His will to humanity (Psalm 19:7–9).
Adventists also believe that the Bible is a self-authenticating document, meaning it can prove itself to be true and trustworthy.
For instance, many prophecies in Scripture came true centuries later. Examples of these are found in Daniel 2 and 7. And looking back today, we can see that these things happened just as Scripture had predicted.
As Jesus said:
“And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29, NKJV).
Scripture affirms itself in other ways as well, including the powerful, personal impact it can have on people who accept its teachings (Hebrews 4:12).
The Bible authenticates itself as the Word of God for those who are open to accepting it and learning from its teachings.
But why is it so important?
Why do we need the Bible?
We need the Bible because it’s the means that God has used for thousands of years to teach us truths and mysteries we can’t learn by ourselves (Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:26).
Yes, we can learn something about God from nature itself. In fact, the Bible teaches we can infer His existence and certain things about Him from the created world (Romans 1:20–21).
However, there are many things about God we can’t learn from nature, especially because it has been damaged by sin (Genesis 3:17–18; Romans 8:22). That’s why these truths about God have to be told to us.
For instance, how do we know we can have salvation and eternal life in Jesus by faith? The Bible tells us:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16, NKJV).
This is a truth that all nature, logic, reason, or science could never teach us.
Other teachings as well—such as the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:10–11; Revelation 1:7; John 5:28–29)—could never be discovered by human intelligence or the study of nature alone. This truth has to be revealed to us in the Bible.
The Bible is also essential because it tells us where the struggle between good and evil—what Adventists call “the great controversy”—began.
Evil arose because of a rebellion in heaven by a real being known as Lucifer or Satan.2 Genesis 3 shows us how that evil entered our world through the choice of Adam and Eve to sin.
We wouldn’t understand this important backdrop to history and our lives today if we didn’t have the Bible to reveal it to us.
Which books of the Bible do Adventists accept?
Like most Protestants, Adventists believe all 66 books of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, comprise the Word of God and are equally inspired (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
However, believing that all books of the Bible are the Word of God doesn’t mean that every specific instruction is still applicable today.
For example, Adventists don’t follow the Old Testament rules concerning how to deal with those who have leprosy (Leviticus 13). The instructions given to the children of Israel at the time were indeed inspired. And the principles of cleanliness and hygiene behind those instructions were inspired. But we apply them differently today than back then.
When dealing with passages of Scripture where context and relevance must be determined, Adventists use the concept of “present truth,” the idea that at certain times in sacred history, certain truths have particular importance and relevance. The principles are timeless, but the actual application may vary.
Notice these examples:
- The “present truth” during the time of Noah was that a worldwide flood was coming—so, get on the boat (Genesis 6:5–8:1). Genesis 6 is still true because it happened, but its instruction to build an ark isn’t relevant to us today.
- During the time of John the Baptist, the “present truth” was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, NKJV). He was preparing people to receive Jesus at His first coming.
Today, Adventists believe that the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6–12 are “present truth” because they are messages of specific relevance and importance to the times we’re living in.
What role did the Bible have in the formation of the Adventist Church?
Diligent Bible study led a small group of people in the mid-1800s to study the Bible and eventually begin the Seventh-day Adventist Church. All our teachings stem from these Bible studies.
But a little backstory first.
The Enlightenment school of thought in Europe influenced many in both Europe and North America from 1715–1789. This movement promoted the idea that human thinking, reason, and science could solve all of humanity’s problems.
At the time, going to church had become more of a tradition and a ritual rather than a way to grow spiritually. Those who had grown complacent started looking toward other ideas, including those of the Enlightenment. They turned to themselves, instead of depending on God, for answers to their deepest problems.
But in the early 19th century, a new interest arose in Scripture and in its prophecies of the end times. This was partly because people could see the hopes of the Enlightenment weren’t working. In the United States, this new interest in the Bible led to the First and Second Great Awakenings, major revivals within Christian churches.
When that didn’t happen—an event we call the Great Disappointment—a small group of Christians in New England began an intense study of the Bible, wondering where the Millerites had gone wrong.
Through years of diligent Bible study—with a significant focus on end-time prophecies—they developed the teachings that eventually led to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
Adventists started out and continue to be believers in the Reformation concept of sola scriptura, which means “Scripture alone.” They believe in the “Bible only” as the foundation of faith, as opposed to using tradition and the teachings of the early church fathers to formulate doctrines and beliefs.
Adventist beliefs are firmly grounded in the Word of God. This includes the beliefs they share with many other Christian congregations, such as salvation by faith in Christ alone (Romans 3:27–28; 4:1–13). And those that are more distinctly Adventist—the seventh-day Sabbath (Genesis 2:1–3; Exodus 20:8–11; Matthew 12:8) or the judgment taking place in the heavenly sanctuary (Daniel 7:9–27; 8:14; Hebrews 8:1–2).
And it was also from their study of the Bible, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation, that they found their calling and reason for existence.
To this day, Adventists study the Scriptures to learn more and seek a deeper understanding of truth.
How do Adventists regard the Bible today?
Adventists view the Bible as the foundation of all our beliefs—but not just beliefs like the creation of the world, the origin of life, or the future hope of eternity with Jesus. The Bible also helps us to get to know God for who He really is.
Through the stories of the Bible, we see God’s unfailing love and mercy for people and His longing to transform our lives.
As we see God’s character reflected through the principles of the Bible, we also learn how to live day by day.
The Bible answers questions like:
- How should I respond when mistreated?—Romans 12:9; Matthew 5:11–21; Luke 6:27
- How should I treat the needy?—Proverbs 14:31; Luke 14:14; 1 Corinthians 10:23–24
- Should I pay my taxes?—Luke 10:25
- Is it wrong to have sexual desire for someone who isn’t my spouse, even if I don’t have sexual relations with that person?—Matthew 5:28
- What kind of actions does the Bible speak against?—Galatians 5:19–21
- What does the Bible say about money?—Luke 12:15; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:10
Though there are many examples of the Bible giving us specific direction, this doesn’t mean that it provides that for every situation. For instance, the Bible certainly has nothing specific to say about spending too much time on social media.
Instead, the answers we look for are written in the form of principles.
Scripture talks about how to best use our time (Ephesians 5:15–17; Colossians 4:5). And it also indicates the kinds of things we should focus on (Philippians 4:8). These principles can then be used to help someone with the question of how much time to spend on social media.
And that’s the beauty of the Bible’s principles. They are applicable across time, culture, and context.
What Bible versions or translations do Adventists read?
There isn’t a specific Bible version or translation that Adventists stand by more than others. Instead, we recognize that different versions have different purposes. Ultimately, though, the most important thing is to read the version of the Bible that keeps you coming back to the Word of God.
For example, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible can feel really difficult to read for some people, so it’s a better move to read the New King James Version (NKJV) or the English Standard Version (ESV) rather than put the Bible away for good because it’s too hard to read.
Different Bible translations can also be useful for different purposes. Some translations, such as the King James Version or the New American Standard Bible (NASB) are closer to the original text, which makes them useful for in-depth study.
On the other hand, Bible paraphrases like the Clear Word or the Message are great for devotional reading.
Is there an Adventist Bible?
No, there is no “Adventist Bible.” We use the same Bible that many other Protestant denominations use.
Some people may ask this question because they’ve heard of Ellen White, one of Adventism’s founders and early leaders, who wrote a prolific amount of books, articles, and letters.
The Adventist Church acknowledges that Ellen White had the gift of prophecy, but we don’t allow her writings to take precedence over the Bible. They point us to the Bible and give us guidance in our study.
Like many other Christians, Adventists also use commentaries and Bibles that contain study notes. We have published Bibles that contain study notes with Ellen G. White’s comments, such as the Remnant Study Bible or the Mission Study Bible.
These tools don’t replace the Bible; they simply help us study the Bible and come to know God more deeply.
The Bible shows us who God is
It’s easy to think of the Bible as a book of doctrines or a collection of teachings.
But the Bible goes beyond moral guidance and theology. It tells us a story—a story of God’s people and their fall into evil and how God is restoring them to His ideal for them.
And through that story, we come to know God for who He is—a God of unfailing love.
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