Last week we discussed the various sources of knowledge.
Reason, Tradition, Experience, Emotion, General Revelation, Special Revelation.
We concluded that unless there was such a thing as special revelation from a Sovereign God, then all our sources of truth are relative. And if all our sources are relative, then truth is relative. So, the big question is whether or not there is any special revelation from God. This week we are going to discuss whether or not the Bible is in fact true. Is it Inspired? How do we know?
I first want to introduce a couple of concepts that I think are important to understand before we get into the details of how we know the bible is inspired. Usually apologetics systems are divided into two camps:
Also known as total rationalism
This is the view that one can come to the truth without having any prior commitment to a system or world view. Pure reasoning can arrive at the truth. For example: You can prove the existence of God through observation of nature and rational arguments. You can prove the Bible is the Word of God by historical and logical arguments.
Also known as Biblicism
In this methodology the revelation-claims of the Bible are not merely hypothetically assumed and later rationally validated, much less arrived at by independent reasoning. Instead, divine authority is accepted unconditionally and wholeheartedly by supernaturally-endowed faith. This system rejects all attempts to independently verify the Christian truth-claims because sinful, rational man has no legitimate canons by which to test God and His revelation. 9
And as usual, there are those who can’t decide, so we have a third option:
This view recognizes that we have presuppositions, but seeks to verify whether or not those presuppositions are valid through the evidence. It promotes Christianity but subjects it to analytical testing or rational tests.
In our context of doing evangelism, it involves breaking up the soil (by poking holes in the other world views) and preparing it for the seed (i.e. the gospel).
What do you think about these three systems?
Presuppositionalism puts its emphasis on faith which is good. We know that the Bible makes sense because we believe. 1 Cor 2:14 says, “…the unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him…” But there are also those who believe because it makes the most sense. After all, Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you see… blessed are those who believe and do not see.” I think this same verse shows that some, like Thomas, do believe because of the evidence. And we have other examples like Josh McDowell ( Evidence that Demands a Verdict), Lee Stroebel ( A Case for Christ), and Simon Greenleaf who all went to the Bible to examine the evidence to see if it was true before they came to faith.
The more I look at this the more I see a similarity to the whole sovereignty of God / human responsibility mystery. Some how both are true.
Perhaps you grew up with your parents telling you that that the Bible was true. But that’s not a very good reason. Other people tell their children that their religious books are from God. So, how do we know if God is speaking through scripture? And is He only speaking through the Bible?
Why do you believe the Bible is inspired?..........
These are subjective arguments. They are important reasons. If neither of these things ever happened, then it would mean there is a problem somewhere. Either with the Bible itself or your method of study. But recognize that other religions have the same reasons. We need objective reasons.
Does the Bible authenticate itself?
Over and over again, the OT writers/prophets say, “Thus says the Lord,…” Hebrews 1:1, etc. So, the Bible says it is God’s word.
What’s wrong with this argument?
First of all it’s a logical fallacy. It is begging the question, or circular reasoning. It’s no proof – but it is a criteria that is needed. If the scripture never claimed that it was the Word of God, then we wouldn’t be trying to decide if it really was.
Wayne Grudem says that scripture
…“cannot be ‘proved’ to be God’s words by appeal to any higher authority. For if an appeal to some higher authority (say, historical accuracy or logical consistency) were used to prove that the Bible is God’s Word, then the Bible itself would not be our highest or absolute authority: it would be subordinate in authority to the thing to which we appealed to prove it to be God’s Word.10
Grudem says that, “all arguments for an absolute authority must ultimately appeal to that authority for proof.”11 For example, if you say that logic is the ultimate authority, then you can only end up supporting your claim by saying that it is logical to think that way.
What do you think about his claim? Is Grudem an evidentialist or a presuppositionalist?
When I first read this, it really bothered me. I thought… that sure sounds good. It made me wonder if I should be studying reasons why the Bible is inspired. If Grudem is right, then I just need to believe the Bible when it says it is inspired. And we just need to present scripture to people and let the Holy Spirit convict them. It does no use to argue with them. And we might as well end this class right now, because I was going to give you logical and practical reasons for believing the Bible is inspired…
But I was left with the subjectivity problem again. The Mormon’s can believe they have God’s word. The Muslims can believe they have God’s words, etc. The Christians say they have God’s word and all three teach different things. Logic says that they can’t all be right. But if we can’t appeal to logic, then we can’t tell the Mormon or Muslim that he is wrong.
So, while I was in this quandary, I kept reading. It is interesting to me that on the next page, Grudem says,
Ultimately, the truthfulness of the Bible will commend itself as being far more persuasive than other religious books… It will be more persuasive because in the actual experience of life, all of these other candidates for ultimate authority are seen to be inconsistent or to have shortcomings that disqualify them, while the Bible will be seen to be fully in accord with all that we know about the world around us, about ourselves, and about God.12
What do you think about that statement?
It looks to me like he is measuring his ultimate authority (the Bible) against the tests of practice, experience and logic that we discussed last week. So, I guess that would make him fall into our third category above – a semi-rationalist.
So, I guess we can proceed with this class and discuss the logical and practical reasons why the Bible is inspired Word of God.
66 different documents, different genres, different authors, different continents, written over 1500 year period, etc. And all the books fit together to tell a unified story. There is nothing else out there like that. It has been critiqued more than any other document. And it has stood up to all the criticism and continues to be the most read, most translated, best selling book.
It records the successes AND failures of it’s heroes. From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see that man is a failure. We are going through Genesis with our neighbors and just finished studying the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The thing that stands out the most is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lots of character flaws and made a lot of big mistakes. One of the things we discussed was why didn’t God choose to work through Melchizedek or Job to carry out His plan. They seemed to be much better candidates. The answer is because the truth is that man is unworthy and it is only because of the grace of God that He blesses us. We do not get what we deserve.
One might imagine a couple of the authors telling the bad stuff that happened, but it’s unbelievable that all 40 biblical authors would all have the same theme of human failure.
Josephus, Ancient Near Eastern literature of the Assyrians, Egyptians, etc. leave out the battles that they lost. They are not honest in their historical records. The nations seem to be doing great up until the point where they just disappear. It makes you wonder what happened? When we evaluate the Bible as a historical document, you have to ask why they would make up such a terrible story that makes man look so bad? Because it is true.
The biblical authors wrote these open ended books that tell a piece of the story. It is not until you put all the books together, that you understand the whole story.
Why would you introduce a theme, but never complete it if you were writing a book?
Differences in the Gospel accounts – shows authenticity. If they all had the same exact details, then that would indicate that they collaborated.
Another aspect of it’s uniqueness is all of the prophecy contained in the Bible. No other religious book contains prophecies of specific future events. The Bible not only contains numerous prophecies, many of them have already come true.
God says this is a pretty good argument. Cf. Isa 41:21 (slide)
There are over 5500 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament which we can compare and come up with what the original manuscripts said. There are only a few places where we aren’t certain and none of those are significant theologically.
If you compare that to, for example, the writings of Shakespeare, in his 37 plays there are probably 100 places where the readings are in dispute. And if you consider the fact that the New Testament existed for 1500 years in manuscript form (handwritten form) before the printing press and Shakespeare existed after the printing press, the preservation of the NT is remarkable.13
The age of the manuscripts is also significant. We have manuscripts of the NT dating as far back as the second century and OT manuscripts from before Christ. When you examine the great classics and Greek and Roman histories, most have been lost and the oldest manuscripts we do have are from the ninth century. The significance of this is that some of our copies of the NT are first, second or third generation copies which means there was less opportunity for errors to creep in. We’ll look at a quote from Josephus a little later where it looks like some things were added to his text, but we don’t have any way of knowing for sure because we don’t have enough copies or old enough copies to compare.
The Bible has been banned, burned and outlawed from the time of Rome to present day Communism. But it is still the most printed, most sold book.
Over the years critics of the Bible have claimed that the Bible was not true because it referred to nations or places that didn’t exist.
For example, they used to say that there was no such nation as the Hittites. But then Archaeologists discovered that they existed for over 1200 years. 14
They used to say that Ninevah didn’t exist, but then they found it.
Nelson Glueck, who is probably the greatest authority on Israeli archaeology said,
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.15
Incidentally, it is because so many significant archaeological discoveries have taken place in the past 100 years that one should be careful when using 100 year old, public domain commentaries like Matthew Henry, Keil and Delitsch, etc.
We must first see the bible as an historical book. Not as a religious book.
We’ve already discussed how the Bible is ruthlessly honest, and that archaeology has verified the facts of the Bible over and over. Another thing that supports the fact that the Bible is an historical book is that it records a lot of irrelevant details. They are irrelevant as far as the theological content is concerned. That is a sign that an historical document is true. If it’s just a theology book, then what is the point of all the irrelevant details?
Christianity would not fall if the bible was not inspired. It would fall if it was not historical.
Look at it another way – If Christ was not really raised from the dead, then Christianity is not true. We can believe in Christ and believe He is God, etc. But if He didn’t raise from the dead, then it’s just a figment of our imagination. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:14 “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.”
Related to the historicity of the Bible itself is the fact that there are numerous extra-biblical sources attesting to facts about Jesus.
People say you can’t use the testimony of believers – like the New Testament authors, or the church fathers – because they are biased. What’s the problem with that? If someone sees the evidence, and believes because of it, then you can’t trust his testimony?
We don’t do that in any other area? Imagine you are sitting in your high school or college history class and you raise your hand and tell the professor that you can’t believe Hitler killed 6 million Jews because the author of the history book about WWII believed that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. Tell him you’ll only believe it if someone who doesn’t believe that Hitler killed 6 million Jews writes a book saying that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. How do you think that would go over? But that’s exactly what people are doing when they discount the NT authors and church fathers’ writings.
If someone tells you this or that is best, or this or that is true, then you don’t say, “I can’t believe what they are saying because they believe what they are saying.”
Fortunately, for those who believe that way, we do have evidence from those who didn’t believe – like Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tactitus, Thallus.
For example – Julius Africanus refers to something the Roman historian Thallus wrote:
On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. 16
Thallus didn’t believe in Jesus, but he records the darkness at the time of Christ’s death and attributes it to an eclipse.
In the Book of Mormon or the Koran, for example, all the miracles happened in secret so that nobody could disprove it.
But with the events of scripture, 5,000 people witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, etc. The resurrected Jesus appeared to 500 at one time.
When Peter was talking to the people of Jerusalem at Pentecost, notice what he said:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know
Also compare Acts 26:24:
24 As Paul was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed loudly, “You have lost your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane!” 25 But Paul replied, “I have not lost my mind, most excellent Festus, but am speaking true and rational words. 26 For the king knows about these things, and I am speaking freely to him, because I cannot believe that any of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner.
Peter and Paul were appealing to public knowledge, to what the people had witnessed or had heard from numerous witness.
Even though opponents of the gospel had everything to lose, we have no documents from them that say that the events didn’t happen. Instead, as we saw earlier we have historians verifying the events.
What’s the motivation for the fabrication? When you look at Mohamed, Joseph Smith, Anne Rand, and other religious leaders, it’s easy to see that they all benefited from their new made-up religion and gained prominence and a large following. But that’s not true of Biblical authors. Eleven of the twelve disciples were killed for teaching what they taught.
How is this different than suicide bombers who die for what they believe? They are dying for something they believe to be true. If the resurrection didn’t take place, then the disciples would have known it. They were either in collaboration spreading a lie, or they were telling what really happened. It’s hard to believe that twelve guys would die for something they knew was a lie. The suicide bombers have been taught their whole life that something is true and is promised to them. Although it is a lie, they believe it is true. The disciples died for telling people what they saw.17
The main purpose for today’s lesson was because as we discuss the different world view questions there is going to be an appeal made to “what the bible says” is the answer. If one thinks the bible is just another religious book, then it is easier to dismiss the bible’s answers.
All the evidence points to the fact that the Bible is true. If you don’t believe it, you just need to admit that you either don’t believe in the supernatural or just don’t like what it’s saying.
9 Rolland D. McCune, “The New Evangelicalism and Apologetics,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 6. p. 78.
10 Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 78.
11 Grudem, p. 78.
12 Grudem, p. 79.
13 McDowell, New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. P. 10.
14 McDowell, p. 11.
15 Rivers in the Desert; History of Negev (Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969), 31
16Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius The Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius. (136). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
17 McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, p. 62.