Is the Bible Reliable?
Christianity 101 Series
CCCAG September 1st, 2019
Today we begin our Christianity 101 series. Part of the format of this series is that at the end of the each message, we will have a Q&A session regarding that lesson first, and then open it up for other questions concerning our faith.
So write down your questions on the back of your bulletins, and we can address it at the end, or send me an email at email@example.com
The video we watched introduced us to a question that is very important in today’s world, and it’s a question those outside the faith are asking about Christianity- Is the Bible Reliable?
We're going to begin our series by discussing the source of our faith. When I say source, I’m talking about an objective way to deciding what is true and what is not.
Objective truth is provable, factual, and repeatable. Subjective truth is a feeling or intuition and is personal to the person experiencing it.
If we are talking about something that we are hanging our eternal destiny on- we obviously want objective truth. Show me the proof.
A true Christians objective rule of faith and conduct is the bible.
Everything that Christians know about sin, Salvation, faith, God, Jesus , or anything else spiritual comes from a the Bible.
Even secular historians will acknowledge that without the bible, Western culture and history would be vastly different than it is today. Western history is European and American history. In fact, if it wasn't for the bible and the faith it contains it can easily be said that you and I would not be existing in a country called America today. The entire western civilization and culture derives itself from the truth found within the Bible.
The bible has survived numerous attempts to destroy it, discredit it, or marginalize it. It’s truth about the creator God, the condition of humanity, the origin and source of evil, and the way to salvation has brightened the existence of Billions of people throughout history.
It is the first of 16 Fundamental truths that we as an Assembly of God fellowship recognize-
“The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.”
Today we will be exploring this truth and answering a lot of questions you may have about the bible but were afraid to ask.
So why do we hold this book in such esteem? Why do we follow the words of a book that was finished almost 2000 year ago? Why is a book over 2000 years old relevant to our lives today?
Why does it matter if I believe the bible? Why do I have to know how to defend it’s truth?
Because the bible commands those who follow it’s words to be ready to give and answer for the hope that they have, so having a basic understanding of how the bible came to be and why it’s reliable is critical toward being able to give those answers.
This morning we will look at some Bible facts and the history behind how we arrived with this book we treasure so dearly.
We will also see with the Bible has to say about itself and why it is so important for us to continue to study it and even more importantly let it study us and our spiritual lives today.
Let's begin today with the word of prayer
The question I want to answer for us today is twofold-
1. Can we trust the bible as being the authentic and truthful revelation of God and His plan for humanity?
2. How does it affect our lives today
We will begin by looking at some very basic Bible facts before we get into the specifics
Basic Bible Facts
The Bible is a library, not a single book. The bible is really 66 different writings or books, divided into sections called the Old and New Testaments. This is an extremely important distinction when it comes to reading it and understanding it as in order to understand what you are reading you have to understand the reason, time, and culture in which that particular writing is referring to in order to appropriately interpret what it is saying and why it is saying it.
This is why people outside the faith that attempt to critique the bible always get it wrong- because they try to take it as a single volume and not a collection of books with a unified message.
So the bible is really is 66 books, divided among the Old and New Testaments.
There are 39 books in the Old Testament. There are 27 books in the New Testament.
The word Testament means “covenant” or “contract.”- again, another important distinction as why you can’t apply much of the Old Testament ceremony and law to a New Testament believer. It would be like digging up a law book written in 17th century America that may have tossed you in jail for spitting tobacco on the sidewalk on a Sunday and applying it to today.
Christians believe that The Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by about 40 different human authors from all walks of life: shepherds, farmers, tent-makers, physicians, fishermen, priests, philosophers and kings. Despite these differences in occupation, educational levels, languages and the span of years it took to write it, the Bible is an extremely cohesive and unified book.
Continuing in our basic bible facts-
Which single author contributed the most books to the Old Testament? Moses. He wrote the first five books of the Bible, referred to as the Pentateuch (Penta- 5, teuch- books). These first 5 books set the foundation of the Bible.
Which single author contributed the most books to the New Testament? The Apostle Paul, who wrote 13-14 books (over half) of the New Testament. We say 13-14 as the book of Hebrews does not immediately identify Paul as the author like the other letters he wrote.
The Bible was written over a period of some 1,500 years, starting from around 1450 B.C. (the time of Moses) to about 100 A.D ending with the death of the Apostle John.
What is the oldest book, or the first book written in the Old Testament? Roughly 1300-1450 BC Job, followed by the Pentateuch
What is the newest, or last written book? The Book of Revelation in the New Testament, written about 95 A.D.
The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.
A few trivia facts that will help you look cool to your friends.
What is the longest book in the Bible? The book of Psalms.
What is the shortest book in the Bible? 2 John.
What is the longest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 119
What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 117
What is the longest verse in the Bible? Esther 8:9
What is the shortest verse in the Bible? John 11:35
How many languages has the Bible been translated into? As of 2018, The Holy Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations, and audio translations (for unwritten languages). (This is an enormous amount of translations. In comparison, Shakespeare, considered by many to be the master writer of the English language, has only been translated into 50 languages.)
21. Is the Bible still the best-selling book in the world? Yes, indeed! Over 100 million copies printed each year
Those are some fast facts, but how did we decide which ancient writings made it into the book we now call the bible?
(Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown)
The bible went through several councils and processes in which it was recognized as divinely inspired as God’s word, and then canonized. What is canonized mean?
The word “Canon” is derived front the Greek word “Kanon,” signifying a measuring rod.
Thus, to have the Bible “canonized” meant that it had been measured by the standard or test of divine inspiration and authority. It became the collection of books or writings accepted by the apostles and leadership of the early Christian church as a basis for Christian belief.
To recognize what writings were inspired they used the following (primary) 4 criteria-
A. Authorship- was the author a recognized spiritual leader?
B. Acceptance- did the majority of the churches of that time recognize and use that book as scripture
If the writing in question passed those first two tests, it went to the third
C. Coherency and Agreement- did the book contain any ideas or doctrines that conflicted with other accepted scripture. This standard is what disqualifies the 7 extra books in a Roman Catholic Church bible called the Apocrypha from being recognized as scripture because they contain contradictions to the main body of recognized biblical writing.
D. Inspiration- Recognized as having the Divine presence, character, and plan revealed in its writings. This is the only subjective standard versus the objective standards previously used.
The Old Testament is believed to be canonized in a meeting that took place in about 90 AD called the Council of Jamia- a city in Central Israel.
I say believed here because historians and theologians are pretty evenly split about that meeting, and I don’t’ want to present to you something as fact that isn’t a decided in academic circles.
The entire New Testament as we know it today, was canonized at several church councils, the most important being the 3rd Council of Carthage in 397 AD. At that meeting they also agreed which of the Old Testament books were canon.
The bible was first translated from it’s source languages into Latin in around 382 AD by Jerome, a Catholic theologian. This was called the Latin Vulgate version of the bible.
First English Translation-1382 A.D., by John Wycliffe.
In 1454 AD- a seminal moment occurred in human history that changed everything- Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The bible was the first book ever printed- prior to that you had to copy any book every written by hand.
Those are some basic facts, let’s dig a little deeper about the documents used to translate the bible into languages that people today can read.
What were the sources documents of the bible?
The major source documents are books are called Codex’s. A Codex means ancient scroll, book, or manuscript. The codex’s were the primary documents used in translating the bible from the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into English.
There are 4 Codex’s still in existence today- two primary and two secondary. These are the two oldest ones are used and referred to most often when translating the bible into modern English.
And you want the oldest version as it’s the closer one to the events and authors.
(Witness Example) Robbery at Kwik Trip- detectives will not let you go home and come back the next day to get your statement- they want it fresh.
Theologians view the Codex’s and other biblical sources the same way- the more closer to the actual events the better to get to the truth of what happened.
We don’t have the autographs anymore- they were destroyed by Diocletian’s purge in the early 300’s AD. Diocletian died and Constantine rose to power in the Roman empire and he was eventually converted to belief in Christ.
As soon as that happened, the church’s got together all of their separated documents and wrote what is now the oldest of the Codex’s.
The oldest is known as the Codex Vatican-us (dated at about 325 AD) and kept at the Vatican in Rome. The Textus Receptus, a retranslation of Jerome’s Latin translation of the bible, in which the KJV of the bible is taken from, was largely translated from this Codex in the 1500’s.
There also the Codex Sinaiticus (330AD). There is an amazing story about the discovery of this Codex.
Discovered by a theologian Constantin von Tischendorf in 1844 at a Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia. The Catholic monks there had kept these Codex’s and their copies safe from the Roman Empire for over 1500 years, but as the centuries passed and Rome fell, they lost the ability to read the languages they were printed in and the importance of what they represented so they put them in a back room and were using them as kindling to light their fires.
Tischendorf could read these documents and immediately realized their importance and convinced the monks to give him some of the copies to save.
They contain the oldest and best translations of the New Testament in existence. Most modern bibles are translated using this Codex as the primary source, including the NIV.
These are the two primary sources.
Two secondary codex’s.
Codex Alexandrius. Written or copied from the primary codex’s around 400 AD
Codex Ephramei. Written or copied from the primary codex’s around 450 AD.
These two codex’s are used as comparison to the older ones.
Quick side note- What about the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Dead Sea Scrolls were copies of the Old Testament that were kept by an offshoot of Judaism called the Essenes. They were found by a shepherd boy in 1946 and contain the 2nd oldest fragmented copies of the Old Testament which confirmed the content of the two primary codex’s copies.
Besides the Codex’s there are over 10K source documents/fragments/or ancient copies of the books of the bible (dated prior to 500 AD) in existence.
When you compare that to other ancient documents such as the writings of Socrates, Aristotle, or Julius Caesar, you are talking about less than a dozen copies of their writings respectfully, and many of those copies are contradictory with each other so it’s hard to decipher exactly what they wrote.
What does all this boring bible school history of bible manuscripts mean to you and me today?
What it means is that the bible you have access to on your phone, or are in the chairs in front of you is accurate to what the original authors wrote.
With over 10k documents- if you put them side by side, how accurate are they? Depending on which scholar you follow- 95- 98.7% accurate with each other, and the differences you see are mostly punctuation, different spellings of words, or copy errors in one manuscript that is corrected in others.
NO doctrine of our faith is influenced at all by any of these “discrepancies.”
All of this is to show you that the book you base your faith on is the revealed Word of God.
I showed you the external evidence first so you can see it’s not just the bible saying its God’s word, but that God miraculously and supernaturally protected His revelation of Himself to humanity throughout the last 3000 years through many attempts to destroy it.
There is no other explanation how this book made it through that much time and that much effort to destroy it and still maintain upwards of 98% integrity and accuracy.
That’s the external proof of the bible’s veracity.
Now, what does the bible say about itself?
The Apostle Paul spells this out for us in
• 2 Timothy 3:15-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
That phrase God breathed is a literal translation from the Greek- Theoneustros. The breath of God filling the authors of the bible and allowing them to write down divine truth.
This does not mean that God used the authors of the Bible as simply a court stenographer that wrote down exactly what he wanted them to write down. That idea is called the mechanical dictation theory of divine inspiration and I reject that idea because even a cursory reading of scripture will show that it was not written like it came from a single author like a dictation would be.
What most theologians and experts in ancient languages of the bible believe today is something called the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture and what that view means is that God through the Holy Spirit worked with and through the human writers of the Bible allowing them to use their own words and their own style to convey scriptural truth as God led them.
Last week we talk a little bit about God breathing on things and producing life. Just as God breathed life into a lump of clay and made Adam, so he breathed into the authors of the Bible to produce the life-giving truth we find in the holy Bible.
Another scripture that supports this idea is found in:
• 1 Thessalonians 2:13
For prophecy (meaning God speaking through humans) never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This scripture simply confirms the basis of how we believe the scriptures came to be. The scriptures were literally breathed into the minds and spirits of the authors of the Bible for our instruction today.
You see this truth of divine inspiration through the fact that the Bible contains no contradictions no matter what famous authors or atheists would try to tell you today.
If you look at the Bible trying to find something wrong then you'll probably find it because you will take something out of context and try to make it sound like the central message is flawed. Remember in the beginning of the message- 66 books with one central message.
Quote- “What the heart wants, the will choses, then the mind justifies“ is a great way to look at a skeptic looking for mistakes in the bible.
However, if you look at the Bible from the starting point that this is God's inspired word to us then it will all flow into the same message as the God of the Bible will lead you into the truth that he is trying to convey to all humanity.
So what is the mission of the Bible?
Why did God go through all of this work creating protecting and transmitting this truth to us to live by?
The Apostle Paul told us- scripture is used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
The Bible is not just a book to read, it's a book that reads us. it is both a window into the mind, heart, character, and plan of God as well it is a mirror that shows us our true self.
The author of Hebrews put it this way
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Bible was not given to us just as a historical record .
The Bible wasn't just given to us to record prophecy.
It's not just a series of laws, rules or ceremonies that we follow to try to gain the favor of God.
The Bible was given to us as a supernatural tool that shows us who we are at the deepest level. It’s a microscope that explores the deepest and most hidden parts of our souls so that the nature of God can be infused into our most intimate levels. Not only is it a microscope to show us where we are but it is meant to be a scalpel that will cut away those things that are not pleasing to God.
It starts with showing us who God is- the creator of all things. It then immediately shows us who you and I are- beings created with the very image of God stamped into our being. It then transitions to show us what this concept of sin is, and it’s effect upon all of creation.
The rest of the Old Testament shows us the progression of salvation history by focusing on one people group called the Hebrews and how they interacted with God. It showed both their successes, and also their raw failures that lead to God discipling them in various ways.
The New Testament records the life and teaching of the God-man Jesus as he came and died to appease divine justice so we did not have to bear the consequence of our rebellion and regain the favor of God.
Jesus tore down religion, and replaced it with the original intent of God creating you and I- to live in close, intimate relationship with HIM with His very presence and Spirit being intertwined with ours.
The New Testament further spells out the meaning of the church and its mission to carry this good news called the gospel throughout the entire earth .
Jesus said that this gospel will be preached to all nations and in all tongues and after that the end will come when he comes to restore and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
That’s the power of the Bible, and the reasons we can trust it as our authoritative rule of faith and conduct today.
Finally I close with this very sobering warning about the bible that is found at the end of the last book of the bible called Revelation.
Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.
Quick Pause- The books- book of remembrance recording everything ever done by everyone who ever lived, and the book of life recording all those who put their faith in Jesus, and the bible (the bible is the standard God uses to judge humanity)
Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
The book of Revelation ends with this warning that not only refers to that book but the entirely of scripture-
Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this book.
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Next week- “The One True God”