The Bible: can we trust it?

The general perception of the public is the Bible has been discredited by modern science and historical scholarship and is no more than a book of myths and legends.  It is full of errors and contradictions and teaches that the earth is flat.  Furthermore, the books of the New Testament were written centuries after the events they describe.  So how on earth could they be accurate?

These are the statements that you often here from critics and sceptics of the Christian faith.  Usually they have obtained their information second-hand or even third-hand and not from original sources.  They are things people have either read or heard and they have taken it as fact.  A good way to respond is to say, “That’s very interesting.  Do you mind if I ask where heard that information?” or “Would you mind elaborating on those errors and contradictions.  I’d be interested to look into that.”  Seldom will you get a clear answer, and it can become a good opportunity for a discussion.

For example, one of the arguments against the Bible is that is wasn’t put together until the 4th century when the emperor Constantine feigned conversion, and, chairing the Council of Nicaea, completed the paganization of Christianity and fixed the 66 books of the Bible (which he altered), thereby solidifying his power base.  This conspiracy theory was popularized in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”  The truth is Christianity by that time had gained so much momentum it was unstoppable and Constantine merely joined the side he knew wouldn’t lose.  And as with regard to the canon, in the second century there was a false teacher by the name of Montanus who claimed he had received divine revelation from God and wanted to be recognized as such.  The early Church Fathers (or Apostolic Fathers) realized they needed to make clear what was Scripture and what wasn’t and formed the Muratorian Canon.  A fragment of this was discovered in the Ambrosian Library in northern Italy in 1740 and dates back to 190 A.D.  It is nearly identical to the New Testament we have today.  By the time of the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), the matter of the NT canon was already settled – the only debate was the book of Hebrews and Revelation (due to question of authorship).

Another false claim is the Bible teaches that the earth is flat and it was not until Christopher Columbus’ historic journey to the “New World” that the Church became forced to accept this as fact and do away with its false belief.  The idea that Christians believed in a flat Earth has been taught in school textbooks, short films, and is believed by many even today.  The truth is it was one or two random people who claimed to represent the church held to a view that the earth was flat.  Most of these were ignored by the Church, yet somehow their writings made it into early history books as being the “official Christian viewpoint.”

The list goes on.  No matter how quickly these false notions are dealt with another one seems to flare up.  J.I. Packer wrote,

“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible.… I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorns, hedges, and man traps to frighten people off.”

I think the Devil has done a pretty good job at that over the years.  He doesn’t want people getting too near it.  He knows all too well what might result!

Last Sunday I put forth a case for the veracity, truthfulness and trustworthiness of the bible at our church.  I told our people the Bible they hold in their hands is historically reliable, scientifically viable and apart from a few very minor variations in the early Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, is 100% accurate.  It was a lot of information so I’ll split it over two or three posts.

Firstly – the uniqueness of the Bible.

The Bible is not actually a book, but a collection of books written in 3 different languages by over 40 different authors who lived on 3 different continents over a time span of about 1500 years.  It is written in a variety of different literary genres – history, poetry, biography, prophecy, and prose and yet contains one central, unifying theme: God’s plan of salvation for mankind.

Have a think about that.  Imagine questioning forty different people on their religious views: people from every socio-economic background in nearly every walk of life (kings and paupers, statesmen and fishermen, poets and physicians), on three separate continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), using a variety of literary forms (poetry, history, civil and criminal law, ethics, biography, prophecy, and personal correspondence), spanning a period of over 1,500 years – and then asking them to write down their thoughts about God, the history of mankind and how everything is going to end up and what do you suppose would be the result?  They’d never agree.  Yet all the books of the bible harmonize – perfectly.  That’s remarkable.

There are more copies of the biblical manuscripts than there are for any of the classics like Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.  F.F. Bruce, an acclaimed bible scholar says, “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”

 Around 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—with no errors.  The remaining 500 concern the future.

The Bible has stood the test of time.  It has been, and continues to be, the bestselling book of all time.  Publishers won’t readily admit that.  They avoid putting it on their lists with the excuse that sales numbers for these books are nearly impossible to track because many are given away by churches or governments(!).  The Bible is also the world’s most illegal book, having been banned in more than 50 countries.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said, “A hundred years you will never hear of it.  Possibly you might see a copy in a museum, but otherwise it will be gone.  It is a thoroughly discredited book.”[1]  A hundred years later, the house in Paris where these words were spoken, became the property of the Bible Society and was the centre of distribution of Bibles around the world.

The Bible has been a huge influence in Western civilization.  It has impacted art, literature, music, ethics and social reforms and humanitarian endeavours.  Our dating system and world calendar stems from the Bible.  The English common law, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta are all rooted in the 10 Commandments of the Bible.  Isaac Newton, English mathematician and scientist: “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

When we pick up a Bible, we are holding in our hand a book that has outlasted repeated attempts to destroy it by force or by argument for more than 2000 years.  Yet it has survived unscathed.

The following quote is from Robert Chapman. I think you will find it great reading:

This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts binding, its histories are true and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, test the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, it will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labour and condemns all who will trifle with its sacred contents.[2]

In my next post we’ll be looking at the reliability of the biblical manuscripts and how we can know they are a trustworthy and accurate copy of what was originally written.

Note: If you would like to listen to the message you can find it here.  You might find the powerpoint for the sermon useful while listening.  You can view it on our church facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgracechurchrichmond%2Fvideos%2F1338452696270883%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

[1]   Cited in RT Kendall, The Word of the Lord, Marshall Pickering, 1986, p.48

[2] This quotation, widely reprinted, has been attributed to Robert Cleaver Chapman (1803–1902).

(Part 2)  (Part 3 (Part 4

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3 thoughts on “The Bible: can we trust it?

  1. Pingback: The Bible: can we trust it? (Part 3) | Feeling God's Pleasure

  2. Pingback: The Bible: can we trust it? (Part 4) | Feeling God's Pleasure

  3. Pingback: The Bible: can we trust it?  (Part 2) | Feeling God's Pleasure

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