Is the Bible Reliable and Relevant?
(The first half of this sermon has been gleaned from many sources of information. Particularly helpful was the blog of Robert Lundburg in the footnotes, but some of it has been collected from years of reading and study independently through many sources. The second half of this sermon on Relevance is uniquely collected as best I can remember and was organized as part of this sermon from previous sermons. No plagiarism was intended in the second part, but appreciation for those who collected and organized the first part is expressed)
Hebrews 4:12 “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.”
The Bible itself claims to be living and active, effective, reliable, relevant and discerning. Many do not believe this is enough, for every prophet, religion and religious tome speaks to validate itself.
Today I want to look at this. Is the Bible reliable from world standards, stepping back and taking an objective look at the book?
Second, if it is reliable, is it relevant for today?
Many have done some great academic work in this area, so I am not claiming that the information I bring to day is original.
It was taken from a lot of resources and you will find this information almost everywhere, on the internet, in the library, on television and radio.
Several writers have begun this study as unbelievers and have been persuaded to Christianity by the data and information they found.
Of those are C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel and Alistair McGrath are a few noted authors and educators who have turned to Christ.
Their invaluable work in this area has bless all of us as they share their journey and research from agnosticism or atheism into Christianity.
The Bible and Bible proponents claim that it is “a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses that were written during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They record for us supernatural events that are direct fulfillment to specific prophecies.The writers claiming that the writings are divine rather than human in origin.” 1
There actually is a test that is applied to historical documents. So we do not have to rely on “blind faith” to begin determining the reliability of scriptures.
I know the criticism of the Bible. We do not have the original documents. That, however, is an unfounded complaint when it comes to historical documents.
In 1952, a professor of military history, Chauncey Sanders, set down three tests which can be used for any historical writing. He named these tests the bibliographic test, the internal test, and the external test. Since the Bible is a collection of historical documents, we can examine the Bible with these tests in the same way we would examine other ancient documents.
The Bibliographic Test -- How Well Were the Original Documents Transmitted to Us Today?
Whenever a document is written, there is always only one original. This is the document from which copies are made. Sometimes, many copies will be made. Other times, only a few will be made.
What we want to find out is, if we had to construct the original document from the copies, how accurate would it be? Clearly, 100% accuracy would be a perfect copy.
The Old Testament
There are very few copies of the original Old Testament writings. This is because copies were lost, ceremonially buried when worn out, or destroyed if imperfections were discovered.
Before 1947, the earliest Hebrew manuscript available was the Masoretic text. But in 1947, approximately 1100 scrolls known as the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The amazing thing about these scrolls is that they are dated between 200 BC, and 68 AD, and contained a complete copy of the Prophet Isaiah.
There are very few variations between these two manuscripts. No variations affect the meaning of the documents in any way.
The New Testament
Archaeologists have found copies of quite a few ancient manuscripts, written by different authors.
Listen to some of the documents and the number of copies:
Homer’s Illiad and Odessi are considered 95% accurate from the originals, and there are about 643 copies, but no original. Scholars universally accept the copies of Homer's writings as being accurate.
Caesar’s The Gallic Wars, there are only 10 copies, and the tests indicate there are not enough older copies to reconstruct and percentage of the original.
The copies now available of New Testament texts number over 14,000 copies and the tests indicate what we have today is 99.5% accurate with no variant affecting doctrine or theology.
It is undeniable, then, that the New Testament is by far the most accurately reconstructed ancient document. It passes the bibliographic test with no problems whatsoever.
The Internal Test - Do The Writers of the Bible Claim Their Writings Are True?
In any document, we are justified in discovering what the writer of that document says about it. Many of the writers of the New Testament were eyewitnesses of Jesus. They saw him, knew all about him, and in some cases, were his followers.
Someone claiming to be an eye witness is testifying that they saw and are accurately recording what they saw, so you will believe them.
Joh 19:35 “He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth--that you also may believe.”
1Jn 1:1-3 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. ‘We were there on the holy mountain with Jesus.’ We heard the voice out of heaven with our very own ears. We couldn't be more sure of what we heard - God's glory, God's voice.”
Even when the writers were not eyewitnesses, they showed that their writings were not made up.
Luke 1:1-4 “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
And since the New Testament was written between AD 47 and AD 95, there was just not enough time for myths and falsehoods about Jesus to grow. There were enough eyewitnesses of Jesus to challenge any historical errors, or blatant lies. Yet no-one did. The Bible passes the internal test.
The External Test - What Does Outside Evidence Say About the Bible?
Because the Bible is a collection of documents written within history, it contains references to history which can be verified by archaeology. It is interesting that before the 20th century, many critics of the Bible discredited it, due to lack of evidence for certain biblical claims. Yet, in the 20th century, archaeology exploded, and all such claims have been reversed.
Archaeology has made astonishing finds which provide evidence for the claims of the Bible. Archaeology cannot prove the Bible, but every new find gives more weight to the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Here are just a few examples of the historical reliability of the Bible:
Critics once claimed that the Law of Moses could not have been written by Moses, since writing was largely unknown at that time (about 1500 BC). Then, the Laws of Hammurabi (1700 BC) were found. This showed that writing was definitely known at that time, and left no reason why Moses could not have written the Law of Moses.
For many centuries, no evidence of the ancient city of Jericho could be found near the current diggings of Jericho. However, in 1930, John Garstang, a British archaeologist, discovered that the ancient city was not near the city that later rose with the same name. He found evidence of a collapsed city and collapsed walls, listed as third on the list of top 10 archeological findings in the 20th century, validating the story in Joshua as written.
For a long time, critics questioned the accuracy of Daniel 5, which mentions a Babylonian King named Belshazzar. Archaeological records show that Nabonidus was king at the time, and do not mention Belshazzar. Yet, in 1956, three stone slabs were found. These slabs showed that while Nabonidus went off to war to fight the Persians, he entrusted the kingdom to his son, Belshazzar.
Many critics have tried to discredit Luke as an accurate historian. So far they have been unsuccessful. A notable example is where Luke says that Lysanius is the Tetrarch of Abilene. Recently, archaeologists found two Greek inscriptions, which show that Lysanius was the Tetrarch of Abilene between 14 and 29 AD. 
In the past, people have doubted whether Jesus even existed. Was he a historical person, or a made-up character? In fact, early Greek, Roman and Jewish sources make mention of Jesus. These include Tacitus (Annals), Suetonius (Life of Claudius, Lives of the Caesars), Pliny the Younger (Epistles) and Lucian (On the Death of Peregrine). As well, there is a letter from a Syrian, Mara Bar-Serapion, to his son. In it, he compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras and Jesus.
The Bible has no problem meeting the external tests. In fact, when the bibliographic test, the internal test and the external test are applied to the Bible, the Bible emerges as a completely trustworthy book.
This is even more amazing considering how many different writers contributed to the Bible.
The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration. This points to a "common author", God, and shows how God not only gives a message to us, but also takes care to ensure that we can trust that message.
That leaves a most important question.
Is the Bible Relevant?
The criticism of the Bible today includes: It is a book written thousands of years ago, in a different culture, a different world, for different people and different times. How is the Bible relevant today, for us, in our country and our society?
1. The Bible is relevant in purpose.
The Bible teaches and we believe that God wants to reveal Himself to mankind. It explains how fallen man, with a fallen nature, does not seek after God. So God has to come for us. The Bible reveals to us that God. That message is to all men in every generation.
The whole story of man is the story of God revealing Himself to mankind. Why does God want to reveal Himself to mankind? Because HE IS OUR ONLY HOPE.
Crime rate, growth in atrocities of crime, world tension, wars (and as the Bible predicted, rumors of wars), growth and mutation of illnesses, viruses and diseases. Our great grandparents had not concept of Aids. Our nation’s founders never heart of Ebola, the flesh eating disease. They never imagined gunmen in our schools or the need to arm teachers or have armed guards in schools.
The FBI reports that there are usually about 35 serial killers active in the USA at any time. The Internet pornography industry generates $12 billion dollars in annual revenue – larger than the combined annual revenues of ABC, NBC, and CBS (Family Safe Media, January 10, 2006,
The largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17 (Family Safe Media, December 15, 2005,
Not to mention sex trade industry, child abuse, violent crimes….
Every one of these reminds us that we need help. We need God. We are suffering our choices. We need a Savior, and that is a relevant message to every generation. God’s purpose in giving us the Bible is to reveal Himself, and that is our only hope.
Eph 3:8-10 “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
Heb 1:1-2 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
2. The Bible is relevant in its product.
Things have changed, but what has not changed is the behavior of man and the emptiness it creates. This emptiness is not fillable by us. We try, but find ourselves without purpose, without meaning, without reason to live.
But in the Bible, we come to know Christ, and thereby come to know God our Father. In Him we find purpose, meaning and reason to live.
Act 17:28 “for ‘In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'"
In Him we have hope, peace, love. When we allow Him to move freely in our lives, He produces in our lives the more valuable results.
Gal 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Against such there is no law…. May I add, on such there is no irrelevance, expiration date, or generation who does not need love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
It is relevant in its purpose, for you to know God, and its product, purpose for even being alive.
3. Finally, it is relevant in its practicality.
Usually, when one asks about the relevancy of the scriptures they are talking about whether its teachings are practical for what we face. Let’s consider some issues:
Purity: The bible teaches against sex outside marriage. Sociologist agree.
Where at one time, having sexual relations outside marriage was considered liberating, current studies show that it damages one’s ability to trust, affecting future relationship, one’s respect for self, affecting every decision and diminishing the value of right decisions, and one’s respect for health.
Liberating? At what cost.
Drs. Freda Bush and Joe McIlhaney released a study at Harvard University that shows that exposure to immorality and participation in sexual acts during childhood years actually changes the brain, interrupting the normal production and usage of dopamine, vasopressin and oxytocin in the brain for the remainder of the life.
These chemicals, when released properly, create the “monogamy syndrome”, in that moment bonding the person to another. If this occurs outside of marriage, that moment of bonding never fully takes place, even after marriage.2
According to the study, listen, “But that bonding, which acts like adhesive tape or Velcro, is weakened when people tear away at its power by breaking off with a sexual partner and moving on from one to another to another. So when it does finally come time to bond permanently with a spouse, the ability to bond is damaged.
The brain actually gets molded to not accept that deep emotional level that's so important for marriage. When they do marry, they're more likely to have a divorce than people who were virgins when they got married."
Others studies, reported by American Journal of Preventive Medicine, physical and emotional changes in unmarried people who have sex, as well as in married people who have sex outside marriage. 3
This is not to discount the spiritual changes in these people.
The Bible is relevant concerning the building blocks of a strong, supportive, fulfilling family life, although some have misrepresented what it is teaching through the years. One of those building blocks is entering into the most important human relationship of choice with the ability to commit fully, and much further than you have ever committed to another in your life. Purity before marriage is now seen as a crucial part of that. This is something many will miss out on because the deemed the Bible irrelevant to themselves.
The Bible is Relevant in:
Family life: Sociologists tell us that the best home is one that is a fortress against the onslaught of world influences and battles, not the family that is in itself a battleground. The Bible has always presented the family of support as biblical and the family as conflict as destructive. (http://www.appliedsoc.org/family/)
Peer pressure: The Bible teaches us that although it is important for us to encourage one another to do the right things, the ability to stand alone against the crowd is invaluable. Sociology and psychology agrees that the slavery to the opinion of others steals happiness and fulfillment from one’s life. (http://www.slideshare.net/jordannglasberg/sociology-peer-pressure).
Stress: The Bible’s message is one of responsibility riding on a trust of God who is in control. We live in trust of God as the basis of our lives and live out our responsibility in obedience to the one we trust. This removes stress and worry from our lives like no other solution.
Medical science is clear: stress and worry will kill you, erode important relationships, demoralize and defeat you.
Suffering: Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust, said, “Suffering without cause is despair.”
Of course, we understand that despair means with no hope.
Athletic trainers and coaches have emphasized over the years that nothing is of any true value without value. The mantra, “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” sells good on the athletic field and court, but is really doesn’t play well in the everyday world.
The world’s view of pain is that it is to be avoided, as much as possible.
Truly, when people come to the end of the life, after much old age at all, we can join Job in saying:
Job 14:1 "Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.”
The Bible has always taught us hope, especially in the time of trouble and pain. Several passages tell Christians that we joy in our suffering.
Jas 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Why would anyone not find that relevant in today’s world, for God’s Kingdom in this world, even more so than on the athletic field and court.
Jesus defined and demonstrated love better than anyone ever in history. Even the world knows the world needs love, love sweet love, not just for some but for everyone.
Oscar Wilde said, “Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”
Paul told the Romans about love: Rom 5:7-8 “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
1 Corinthians 13 defines love as it was demonstrated by Jesus Christ and commanded for us.
Co 13:4-8a “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”
God is defined as love. Love is the central theme of the Bible. God looked down at a sinful, hopeless world and in love sent His one and only, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
How is that definition and demonstration of love not relevant in a world so destitute of love?
That brings us to the central offering of the Bible, that man may be saved. When man was not seeking salvation, but was seeking to find pleasure and ease, “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Ref. Romans 5:6.
Through Christ, God offers man adoption into His family, forgiveness of sin, strength for living, purpose in suffering , love unconditional, and eternal happiness. Why would that not be relevant for today? Why would God’s salvation not be appealing to those who fear death and the grave?
You can receive Christ today by believing in Him and calling upon Him for salvation. In that act, God will grant you first the faith to believe, and then the full package of salvation.
Rom 10:8-10 “But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”