The Bible: Part I
Three burning questions everyone should be able to answer!
1. Is the Bible the Word of God?
2. Can the Bible be trusted as God’s revelation to instruct, lead, and guide one’s life?
3. How do can I know that the Bible is true, accurate, and correct?
Such questions are common to all, believers and unbelievers alike. These are weighty questions but answers are available for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, unless the vail (another subject later) hides the truth from them, then there is no hope for them until, and if, the vail is removed. Such answers prove extensive and I hope to put them forth to all concerned in two parts. This week is part I. (If you are reading this you either are a Christian or God is calling you, without any doubt, to get to know God and experience a true relationship with Him!)
The Bible: Part I
For the Christian, the Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice relating to God and is, therefore, worthy of study. Evidence can be amassed that points to the existence of God just as supposed evidence can be found to argue against God’s existence. Such evidence that is amassed cannot, however, either prove or disprove the existence of God, but will leave a “gap” between the evidence and certainty. The Bible is a major component in the supporting evidence for the existence of God and for bridging that gap.
The “gap” between that evidence and your final belief system is bridged by faith. That bridge from the evidence to a belief in God is much smaller, and easier to cross, than the bridge from any other evidence to whatever opposing theory one may wish to embrace as the basis for their system of belief. It is faith and not science that must be relied upon to arrive at a decision regarding the existence or non-existence of God.
Science is based on empirical evidence, that which is observable, repeatable, and/or measurable. Some “scientists” have said that if it can’t be measured – it doesn’t exist! That may be true for the physical world, but certainly not for the spiritual world! God cannot be quantified by measurement, He is infinite. God is a Spirit Being without physical shape or form. Science therefore is an inadequate discipline when it comes investigations relating to the metaphysical realm.
The singular most important reason of all to study the Bible (the Scriptures) is that such a study can lead to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, resulting in eternal life and all the blessings associated with it. If such a personal relationship already exists, that relationship can only be improved and strengthened by the study of Scripture
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine ; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
2nd Tim 4:3- 4 (NKJV) (Emphasis added)
Some 2000 years since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ there have been many ongoing disputations regarding the doctrine of Jesus, who being God, is equated with promoting or establishing the doctrine of God. Those disputations have led to many differing views and opinions regarding the Scriptures. Scriptural doctrine is known facts based on the Bible and is contrasted with Dogma which are tenets held without substantive proof or basis in fact.
Webster defines doctrine as teaching or instruction. Webster further defines doctrine as “a principle or position, or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief.” It is necessary therefore that the believer know and understand the principles of Christian Doctrine to enable them to be a “good and faithful servant” (Luke 19:17). To be a “good and faithful servant” one’s “system of belief” must be based on sound doctrine established by solid foundational principles.
A theological doctrine or “system of belief” depends on the evidence pointing to the existence (or non-existence) of God which in turn becomes a matter of faith in those principles upon which it is established. It is a matter of faith because the existence of God cannot be verified nor falsified by scientific evidence. It must be pointed out that no other “system of belief” can be verified or falsified as well. Everyone has faith (belief) in something, even if it is faith (belief) in
nothing. Both the existence and the non-existence of God is a matter of faith. For the believer, the existence of God transcends the initial faith response to God’s message and adds knowledge of God based on personal experience which reinforces and strengthens the response of faith.
Since there are many differing denominations within the Christian faith, it is obvious and inevitable that there will be differences in denominational doctrines based upon differing interpretations of the same passage(s) of Scripture in the Bible. Indeed, there are also many false doctrines wrongly attributed to the Scriptures, which is why the Apostle Paul warns against the purveyors of false doctrine as referenced in the verse quoted from 2nd Timothy at the beginning of this chapter. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, only two words, “Jesus wept.”
The Apostle Peter also states that Paul’s epistles contain some things that are “hard to understand” (2nd Peter 3:16). If some things in the Apostle Paul’s writings were difficult for Peter (an Apostle himself!) to understand, it should come as no surprise that we also will find passages that are difficult or hard to understand! (Note: 2nd Peter 3:16 equates Paul’s epistles with the “rest of the Scriptures” thereby acknowledging that the Apostles knew that their writings were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that they were adding to the existing body of Scripture.)
It is those things that are “hard to understand” which cause some to misinterpret the Scriptures to their own harm, leading to false doctrines attributed to those Scriptures. Indeed, it is such difficulties that give rise to erroneous teaching about some Scriptures in particular and to the Bible in general. Notwithstanding, all that is needed for salvation is made simple, plain, and evident to “whosoever” seeks such in sincerity, without the need for special training or years of study.
Can the Bible be trusted to reveal sound doctrine?
If we are to know sound doctrine (as opposed to un-sound or false doctrine) it must first be established that the Scriptures are a trustworthy source for that doctrine. The Scriptures have been attacked over the centuries from every angle possible. Such attacks range in scope from attributing the Bible as originating from fables and superstitions to outright falsehoods.
The Holy Spirit (the third Person of the Trinity) inspired men to write the words contained in the Bible and can rightly be referred to as the Author of all Scripture. To understand any written work, it is advantageous to first know something about the author, the one person who can best guide your study and relate the intent of what was written. Therefore, to understand Scripture we must learn to depend upon the Author Himself – the Holy Spirit. To truly “know” the Author, you must first become a Christian, as every Christian becomes indwelt by the Holy Spirit (John 14:17)
and becomes subject to His leadership and guidance. If you do not consider yourself to be a Christian; or are not sure if you really are; then you should pray for God to open your mind to the truth and to guide you into salvation as you read and study. (If you are not a Christian the fact that you have encountered this work by whatever means is prima facia evidence that the Holy Spirit is drawing you to God – John 6:44).
Are the Scriptures truly the Word of God; that is, are the Scriptures valid? Validity can be determined by a dual axis approach of internal validity and external validity. Internal validity seeks to find contradictions or discrepancies within the text. External validity compares the text to known historical facts for discrepancies. Internal validity deals with internal consistency – is the Bible contradictory within itself? The second, External validity, is whether the Bible matches the facts of history or not. Each will be discussed in turn, but first an example of how internal and external validity work together.
Think of a criminal jury trial. The defendant will present an alibi and the prosecutor will present facts designed to refute the defendants alibi. For internal validity, the alibi must make sense, that is, be within reason, not contradict itself, nor violate the sequence of time, nor the facts of the case. External validity must meet the facts of the case and not omit, twist, rearrange, or otherwise distort the facts.
When internal validity is sound but external validity is found wanting, the defendant should be found “not guilty.” For example, suppose that the defendant’s alibi is that he or she was in New York City at the same time a crime for which they are accused was committed in Los Angeles. Further suppose that the alibi is substantiated by witnesses, credit card purchases with surveillance camera photos, etc. (external validity) of the suspect in New York at the time of the crime. Because a person cannot be in two places at the same time, the external validity would not only fail to discredit the alibi, but support it, thereby proving the defendant to be innocent of the crime.
Further suppose that the defendant’s alibi is contradictory and is disproved by the known facts, then they should be found guilty. If the defendant’s alibi that they were in New York is disproven by witnesses, surveillance cameras, etc. that place the defendant at the scene of the crime the alibi is discredited. This dual axis approach of internal and external validity must be met to accept the Word of God as just what it claims to be – the Word of God.
The Bible was written over a period of some 1800 years or so by over 40 different authors in several different languages. Obviously, many of those writers never knew of, or corresponded with many (if not most) of the other writers. Assuredly, some of those writers were not even able to comprehend the full scope of what they were inspired to write at the time it was written. However, as later writings were added to Scripture it allowed for the full meaning of those Scriptures to unfold over time. In such an instance, internal consistency would be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain outside of divine guidance. This is the miracle of “progressive revelation” where later Scripture builds on earlier writings to reveal an unfolding of God’s plan.
Even though the writers were separated by time and space, the Scriptures themselves are not contradictory. There are some portions in the Bible that are pointed out by naysayers as contradictory, but careful study eliminates the clear majority of them. Those that remain can be attributed to minor translation errors or things that are not meaningful to salvation or sound doctrine. Such minor, irrelevant errors are not considered to undermine Scripture. The progressive revelation of God remains intact and consistent.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provided a written record of the Old Testament that spanned a gap of multiple centuries (as much as 900 years or more!). This archaeological find allowed for textual comparisons to determine the accuracy of transmission by those who copied the texts from previous copies. Since there were no copy machines back then, the only means of duplication was to re-copy the information by hand from previously copied sources. Such re-copying from previous copies was repeated untold hundreds of time. The fidelity of transcription by these copiers over some 900 years and multiple upon multiple re-copying is remarkably accurate and provides additional internal validity.
The Bible provides an ever-increasing revelation of Jesus Christ as Messiah through those centuries without contradicting that fact. Such could only be accomplished by the writers recording not what they thought, but what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write. Internal validity for the Scriptures is on sound footing.
External validity is found in many archeological artifacts and historical documents. Ancient cities, villages, kings, and writings have been found that confirm facts that were recorded in the Scriptures. Perhaps the most important are written records and artifacts that have been unearthed
that support the reality of persons and events as recorded in the Bible that were previously unknown in the annals of history.
The existence of king Belshazzer, for example, was unknown outside of his being named in the Bible until 1854 when clay tablets were unearthed that verified his existence. Numerous inscribed clay tablets, stone prisms, statutes, and other artifacts attest to, and correspond with the Biblical account of kings, sieges, attacks and other events. The Bible is so accurate that many archeologists use the Bible as a source guide in their search for additional artifacts and lost cities.
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