The Bible Can Be Trusted
Christians trust the Bible because Jesus trusted it and identified it as Gods word. But this isnt blind trust. It is based on good evidence that the text we read today faithfully reflects what was originally written and that the original texts are accurate and trustworthy.
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The New Testament Sources Are Relatively Early
In ancient history, scholars are used to assessing sources written many decades, or even centuries, after the events under investigation. Thats the norm.
Rarely, if ever, do we find sources contemporaneous with events. So, for example, our first detailed biographical account of Alexander the Great was written by Polybius about 120 years after Alexanders death. Likewise, the most important account of Emperor Tiberius, who ruled when Jesus lived, was penned by Tacitus some 80 years after his death.
The New Testament documents, on the other hand, are significantly earlier. The gospel source known as Q and the earliest letters of Paul come from around the year 50, just 20 years after Jesus death. Several more documents come from the 60s, just 30 or so years after Jesus. And the latest New Testament document in the opinion of secular scholars, the Gospel of John, was probably written around the year 90, just 60 years after the event. That means that the latest New Testament record we have for Jesus is still earlier than the best record we have for Emperor Tiberius who lived at the same time.
To Trust Or Not To Trust
Trust not to rotten planks, wrote English dramatist William Shakespeare. Indeed, before stepping onto the wooden planks of a boat, you would want to be sure that the wood was not rotten.
THE words of Shakespeare echo the sentiments of wise King Solomon of ancient Israel, who some 3,000 years ago wrote: A fool will believe anything smart people watch their step. Yes, only a fool would go through life blindly accepting everything he hears, basing his decisions and actions on frivolous advice or baseless teachings. Misplacing our trustlike stepping onto rotten plankscan lead to disaster. You may wonder, Is there any source of guidance that is worthy of our trust?
Millions of people the world over place their full trust in an ancient book called the Holy Bible. They look to this book to direct their steps. They base their decisions on its advice and pattern their actions after its teachings. Are such individuals stepping, as it were, onto rotten planks? The answer to that question depends greatly on the answer to another question, Are there sound reasons to trust the Bible? This special issue of Awake! examines the evidence.
The purpose of this issue of Awake! is not to impose religious beliefs or views on you. Rather, it is intended simply to present the compelling evidence that has convinced millions that the Bible is worthy of their trust. After reading the articles that follow, you can decide for yourself whether the Bible merits your trust.
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How Do We Know The Bible Is True And Its Promises Will Actually Happen
The worlds population is growing steadily upwards, at present approaching 7.5 billion people. The entire Bible is available to more than 60 percent of the population in their own language. Scriptures can be read from the comfort of a persons home, heard on television and radio programs, quickly glanced at in almost any location on the screen of a mobile phone, or shared publicly across the Internet to reach friends and families or even perfect strangers.
The words of God are meant to bring about positive change in an individual’s life.
So many people can access the Bible in so many different ways, yet fewer are turning to its pages for answers to their questions and comfort when they are hurting. Fewer people feel like they can trust the Word of God.
Every word of God is pure He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him .
How do we know these words are true? How do we know we can trust God and the words He has preserved for us to read?
It is difficult to have faith in what we cannot see or do not fully understand. In order to prove to ourselves that something is true or trustworthy, we often look for evidence. What evidence do we have that we can trust the Bible?
And Other Questions About Scripture Truth And How God Speaks
Part of the Questions Christians Ask series.
The Bible makes big claims for itself. But do those claims stand up?
Arent the stories just legends? Hasnt the information been corrupted over time? Isnt the Bible full of mistakes? And isnt it culturally outdated?
In this absorbing little book, Barry Cooper explores these questions – and many others – with warmth, wit and integrity.
Part of the Questions Christians Ask series: a range of short, simple books designed to help Christians understand what God has said about these questions and many more in the Bible.
- 1. Does the Bible claim to be Gods word?
- The world, the word, and what Jesus thought of the Bible
- 2. Does the Bible claim to be Gods word?
- The word, the Word, and the rightness of writing
- 3. Does the Bible seem to be Gods word?
- Consistency, conspiracies and corruptions
- 4. Does the Bible seem to be Gods word?
- Canon, contradictions and criticisms
- 5. Does the Bible prove to be Gods word?
- Tasting, seeing, and the sweetness of Scripture
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The New Testament Contains A Collection Of Independent Evidence About Jesus
The New Testament seems like one book today. It has its own ISBN, after all! But, originally, many of these texts were written independently of each other.
The Gospel of Mark was written without a knowledge of what was in the letters of Paul. Paul himself wrote without any knowledge of the Gospel of Mark. James wrote his letter without possessing copies of Mark or Pauls epistles. Here, then, are three separate sources, only later brought into a single volume called the New Testament.
Do we have more than one source testifying to the event?
There are even sources within individual gospels, according to most secular experts today. Luke in his opening line tells us, Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. Today, scholars reckon they can detect at least three separate sources in his gospel. Overall, then, there are between five and seven sources in the New Testament which havent been simply copied from each other. The point of the observation from the historical point of view is that this fulfils one of the most important tests that contemporary historians apply when trying to work out what happened in the past: Do we have more than one source testifying to the event? In the case of Jesus, we have between five and seven different sources saying roughly the same thing about him. That puts the broad outline of Jesus life beyond reasonable doubt for most specialists working today.
The Writers Of The Bible Defend The Truth:
Contrary to the myths, legends, and mystery religions of the ancient world, the events recorded in the Bible were not done in a corner. A whole bunch of people saw them as they happened. Reliable people testified, in writing, to the authenticity of those events and signed their testimony in blood. And those writings, far from being effectively refuted and discredited, stood the test and were recognized as authoritative.
Peter himself answered the Myths and Legends Myths when he wrote
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Luke thought he was writing fact and not fiction too:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
John, just like Luke, claims to be painstakingly preserving historical facts, not spinning a tale:
Paul could confidently assert to government officials that events of Jesus life were public knowledge:
not done in a corner, he said to King Agrippa in Acts 26:26.
Why Should We Trust The Bible
Why Should We Trust the Bible?
The Bible is a book whose reading never leaves us indifferent. It will disquiet us. It will make us restless because its a book unlike any other book. It is the Book of Books.
Has the Bible ever disquieted you? Maybe you would just as soon remain indifferent to the Bible, but you feel an unsettling restlessness as you read it. You wonder, Can I really trust this book?
There are four main reasons why I believe we should trust the Bible.
1. The Bible claims to be inspired by God.
Wait a minute, you say, Thats circular reasoning and it doesnt prove anything! Maybe, but its important to start here. Whatever we think about the Bible, we must acknowledge what the Bible claims for itself.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:15 that all Scripture is breathed out by God. The Bible itself claims to be Gods inspired word, down to the very last word. Furthermore, the Old Testament prophets cite the pronouncements of earlier prophets as God-inspired and thus authoritative . The Apostle Peter says Pauls writings are hard to understand, but that theyre to be regarded as Scripture . Jesus himself during his wilderness temptation regards Old Testament commands as divinely given and thus to be obeyed , and he cites Old Testament writings as authoritative support for his own teaching .
2. The Bible has a shockingly coherent message.
3. The Bible has the power to change us.
4. The Holy Spirit convinces us that the Bible is true.
The Gospels Are Now Widely Recognised By Secular Experts As Historical Biographies
There was a time when people read the gospel accounts as myth. The great German scholar David Friedrich Strauss argued that the narratives of Jesus were never intended to be read as history but were only meant as poetical and metaphorical accounts of the spiritual and moral life. Jesus didnt actually give sight to the blind, for example such stories were really only about the religious insight we gain when we listen to the wisdom of Christ.
This view may persist in the popular mind, but it has disappeared from scholarship. Between the 1970s and 90s, a consensus emerged among experts that the gospels have to be read as biographies of a real individual. They share many similarities in length, structure, design and content with the 20-30 other biographies from the period. So they have to be read as real-world accounts of the sayings and deeds of a first-century individual.
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What We Have Is What Was Written
Remember the Telephone game? One child would start by whispering a message in anothers ear, she would then whisper to the next child, and so on. Finally, the last person in the telephone line would reveal a message so distorted from the original, the children would break out in laughter. Skeptics use this childs game as a parallel to how the Bible has come down to us. Just like the final message of the telephone game, the New Testament is equally unreliable. Right? Wrong.
At first glance, the objection is compelling. But most people raising it simply dont know the facts. And the facts are on the Bibles side. Clearly, the telephone game does not accurately capture the manner in which the New Testament was passed down.
First, the New Testament message was not transmitted orally, a mode of communication that is easier to distort. Instead, it was handed down in writing. Second, there was not a singular line of transmissionthat is, it was not the case that a single individual passed the message to another individual who passed the message to a different individual and so on. Rather, there were many lines as one letter was copied multiple times and copies were copied multiple times, eventually resulting in a host of manuscript copies. Third, historians do not rely on the last person in line but look for earlier sources much closer to the original. Finally, original letters could be consulted, even after several generations of copies.
Ancient Christians Quoted The Bible
The Bibles friends and enemies frequently quoted Scripture. While the New Testament has only 7,957 verses, early Christians quoted it 36,289 times in sermons, commentaries, debates, books, and letters that still remain. For example, Irenaeus quoted it 1800 times, citing 23 of 27 books, omitting only Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 3 John.
If all 25,000 manuscripts were destroyed, 99.86 percent of the New Testament could be rewritten by citations alone. Sir David Dalrymple wrote that these citations
. . . roused my curiosity, and as I possessed all the existing works of the Fathers of the second and third centuries, I commenced to search, and up to this time I have found the entire New Testament, except eleven verses .
Any one of these four evidences is sufficient to confirm the Bibles authenticity, but put together, the proof is overwhelming. Anyone who argues that todays Bible differs from the original confesses either his ignorance of the history of the Bible and the science of textual criticism or his bias against it.
Bernard Ramm wrote, A thousand times over the centuries the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the flowers ordered, the inscription placed on the tomb stone and the eulogy written, but somehow the corpse never stays put . We can trust the Bible.
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It Is Written With Gods Own Words
Throughout Scripture we see references to the words of God. The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is a love song to the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16, in the original greek language translates into a phrase that literally means God breathed. Every page, every word, is His heart poured out through the words of man. Each word is spoken and written with purpose.
We can know that the Bible is true because it is written with the very words of God.
How incredibly powerful it is to know that our Heavenly Father spoke words just for you and I. Nothing haphazardly put together, but for the purpose of revealing Himself to us, that we may know Him and love Him.
Before The New Testament Was Written The Words And Deeds Of Jesus Were Preserved By Oral Tradition
In the ancient world only about 10-15 per cent of the population could read. So peoples first instinct when important things happened wasnt to write them down. That only preserved the news for a small, elite subset of the population. If you wanted the masses to know something whether an important military event, a summary of a philosophical system or a particular teachers sayings you relied on what scholars call oral tradition.
In our instant, media-saturated world, we expect things to be on Twitter or our news feeds within minutes of them happening. But thats not how the first century worked. We know beyond doubting that ancient Greeks, Romans and Jews were well practised in the art of memorisation and rehearsal of important material.
In reality, it is surprising that we have so much Christian material written down so soon.
For example, initiates in the philosophy of Epicurus, one of the most popular schools in the period, had to learn by heart about 2000 words of complex philosophical sayings of the founder of the movement. This wasnt unusual. Jewish rabbis made similar demands of their disciples, and all of the evidence points to Jesus insisting upon the same with his disciples. These disciples then appointed others known as teachers to ensure that the same material was passed on and preserved in the growing churches. In reality, it is surprising that we have so much Christian material written down so soon.
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Answering Five Big Questions
The bulk of the book addresses five big questions about the Bibles trustworthiness:
To each question, Gilbert offers reasoned arguments for why the answer is yes.
To be clear, he isnt trying to break new ground. Anyone familiar with the literature knows these questions have been amply handled many times by evangelical scholars. But what Gilbert gives us is a helpful condensing of the textual critical insights of a Daniel Wallace, the canon research of a Michael Kruger, and the historical arguments of a Craig Blombergall rolled into one tiny hardback. And for those wanting to go deeper, he provides an excellent bibliography .
Allow me to single out one chapter for its wealth of insight and illustration: Copies of Copies of Copies of Copies? Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this chapter is to say it will make you so excited about textual criticism that youll want to teach a Sunday school lesson on it. Seriously.