Archives for November 2017

We Believe in God’s Holy Word

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Can You Trust the Bible?

Are there errors in the Bible.  I get asked that question a lot.  And what they really want to know is how do we know that the Greek or Hebrew text is reliable?  How do we know that scribes didn’t change the text or that errors haven’t crept into the Bible?

This question has become increasingly important in our day because there are skeptics out there who are making farfetched accusations.  One of the skeptics, Bart Ehrmman, in his Book “Misquoting Jesus,” has even claimed that there are some 400,000 errors in the New Testament alone!  Those are big numbers!  But wait a minute Bart!  There are less than 140,000 words in the New Testament!  If Bart’s math is true, there are errors 3 errors for every single word!  So how does Bart’s fuzzy math work???   It doesn’t.[i]

A cowboy was once lazily riding his old horse over the high desert.  Tumbleweeds were blowing by, and cactus stuck up here and there in the dry wilderness.  He sauntered around a huge boulder, and quickly reigned his horse in.  To his surprise he had almost stepped on an Indian brave who had his ear to the ground right in the middle of the road.  From where the cowboy was sitting he could hear the brave mumbling:

“Ugh.  Stagecoach.  Four horses.  Heading south.  Ugh.  One horse black, three brown.  Driver have white Stetson hat;  Big red feather.  Remington rifle.  Ugh.

The cowboy was stunned!  “That’s amazing he said!  You can tell all that just by putting your ear to the ground????”

The Indian replied, “Ugh.  Stagecoach run over Indian brave 5 minutes ago!”

Today I’m going to give you 10 powerful reasons why the Bible can be trusted.  No disrespect meant to our Native American friends, but that’s the way it is with these 10 evidences.  No single one will make the case by itself, but when you put them all together, they hit you like a stagecoach.  These 10 proofs will knock you flat with the truth.  Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. Manuscripts

Despite what the skeptics claim, that the Bible has often been changed through the centuries, the actual physical evidence tells another story. The New Testament records are incredibly accurate. There are minor differences in manuscripts, called variants, but none of these variants impact or change key Christian beliefs or claims.

Let me let you in on a secret, that really isn’t a secret.  We believe that the original manuscripts written by the authors of the Bible, in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic were inspired and inerrant.  Our English Bible is a translation, and is preserved accurately, but is not inerrant.

There are about 6000 Greek manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament alone.  Those copies have been preserved carefully and accurately, but they are not inerrant.

The oldest Greek manuscript is dated within 50 years or less after the death of the author, John.  There are also 9000 Latin copies!  The New Testament has been quoted in the first 250 years 32,000 times.  There are virtually no mistakes when comparing manuscripts.  But it would be dishonest to tell you that there are not differences between the manuscripts.  That is why it is so exciting that we have so many!  We can compare them to on another!

There is approximately one letter out of 1,000 that varies from copy to copy in the New Testament.  With that kind of amazing accuracy, we can confidently say that somehow God miraculously preserved the Bible in a way no other book has experienced.

2. Archaeology

The Archaeological Study Bible presents many notes and articles documenting how archeology has again and again proven that the Bible does correspond to historical reality.

Nelson Glueck, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine and who is considered one of the greatest archaeologists ever, wrote:

“No archeological discovery has ever controverted [overturned] a Biblical reference.” [Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31.]

These are the words of a man who has been credited with uncovering more than fifteen hundred ancient sites in the Middle East. [“Archaeology: The Shards of History,” Time, December 13, 1963.][ii]

  • In 2016, archeologists uncovered Solomon’s palace at Gezer from 1 Kings 9:16-17
  • In 2015 Herod’s palace, the site of Jesus trial was excavated.
  • The Pontius Pilate stone (which we saw) which confirms that he was prefect when Jesus was crucified.
  • The burial box (ossuary) inscribed James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus, dated to AD 63
  • The discovery in Tel Dan which bears the inscription of King David in a newly excavated wall.

We could go on, and on.

3.  Historical accuracy

Let me give you a few examples of the discoveries which have, time after time, proven the Bible to be accurate.

The Hitites:  This ancient people is extinct.  Scholars used to laugh and point to the Hitites as a non-existent people which the Bible made up.  Scripture mentions them 61 times.  In 1906 archaeologists dug up the capitol of the Hitites in modern Turkey.

Solomon’s Chariot Cities:  Once scoffed at as inflated stories.  Now we have discovered sights complete with stalls & tie holes for horses at least 5 ancient cities dated to Solomons time.

There is Hezekiah’s tunnel, discovered in the 19th century.  There is the King Belshazzar whom modern archaeology has only recently discovered as being authentic.  It is extremely difficult to choose a few examples of the hundreds available!  Every year there are an increasing number of discoveries which shed light on Scripture.  Not one has yet to contradict any single Biblical item!

Paul Rader in 1930 offered a thousand dollars to anyone who could come up with one single proof that the Bible contradicts one demonstrated scientific fact in any domain: history, geology, archaeology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, ethnology, etc.  Nobody ever took him up on his offer.  There is a great difference between a hypothetical acquaintance and proven facts

4.  Scientific agreement[iii]

Of course many critics of the Bible would disagree that the Bible is scientifically accurate. They point to verses that say things like “the sun stood still” in Joshua 10:13 or John’s reference to “the four corners of the Earth” (Rev. 7:1). And they conclude that the Bible teaches that the Sun revolves around a flat, four-cornered Earth.

Well, they are overlooking the fact that the writers of the Bible were not writing a technical textbook on astronomy. They were describing things as they appeared to the eye, as when we call it “sun rise” or “sun set,” or employing normal figures of speech, as was the case with John’s reference to the “four corners of the Earth.”

We must also remember that Evolution is unproven, has nothing to do with fact, and is outside the scope of scientific investigation.  In fact, the facts fit creation much better than they do evolution.

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it was written in a pre-scientific age.  Remember that some cultures thought that the earth rested on the back of an elephant or turtle.  Some experts of the past thought that blood-letting was required to get disease out of the body, and others thought that the stars could be numbered.  However, the Bible was preserved from these primitive notions!

The Earth –  Job 26:7 says, “He hangs the earth on nothing!”  Before Isaac Newton discovered gravity, Hindus believed the Earth rested on the backs of elephants who stood on the back of a turtle that was swimming in a great endless sea. That’s some turtle! There were all kinds of theories in the ancient world. People thought something has to support the Earth. What did the Bible say? In one of the oldest books in the Bible, Job said: “He [God] hangs the Earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). Nothing! In other words, the Earth hangs completely unattached in space. This is astounding. Scientists were still trying to figure this out thousands of years later.

Life – Leviticus 17:11 says that “life is in the blood.”  Contrast that to the 18th century idea of blood-letting.

The Stars – Jeremiah 33:22 claims “The stars are without number.”  Before the invention of the telescope, people believed the stars could all be numbered. People were so confident of this, they drew up star charts, with all the stars named and numbered. The Greek astronomer and mathematician Hipparchus (190-120 BC) claimed there were 1,026 stars. The astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy (AD c. 85-165) said there were 1,056 stars. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) counted 1,006.

God says the stars cannot be numbered. In fact, trying to do so would be about as futile as trying to count the grains of sand floating around in the sea, obviously an impossible task. Jeremiah wrote that more than 2,000 years before Galileo made his discovery.

Today, with the help of powerful telescopes, astronomers tell us that the universe contains somewhere between 100 billion and a trillion galaxies containing anywhere between 100 billion and 10 trillion stars each. [Source: AP/Washington Times]

This all adds up to a lot of stars! Astronomers have to keep revising their estimates of how many stars have been discovered. A new study, published in the journal Nature, suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion stars. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros, or take 3 trillion and multiply it by 100 billion. [Source: AP/Washington Times]

The Sun – the Bible teaches that the Sun is actually on a circuit through space. Psalm 19:6. Scientists once thought the Sun was stationary. However, it has been discovered in recent years that the Sun is in fact on a circuit through space, just like the Bible says.

So many examples could be cited.  Now all of these statements in the Bible about the stars, the universe, and the Earth raise a question: How did the authors of the Bible know these kinds of things? Were they taking wild guesses?

5.  Fulfilled Prophecy

This is one of the strongest arguments there is.  There is a wide range of fulfilled predictions in the Bible, many in amazing detail.  In fact we can say that 100% of all the Bible’s prophecies that should be fulfilled, are fulfilled.  It has never once been wrong.

  • The Bible predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before it happened – Micah 5:2.
  • Zechariah 9:9 predicted Christ’s triumphal entry 500 years before it happened.
  • Psalm 22 predicted Christ’s method of death 1000 years before Christ, and hundreds of years before the Romans even invented crucifixion.

There are a total of 333 Messianic predictions that came true during the life of Christ, not to mention the hundreds more about Israel and other items.

Calculations using the science of probability on just 8 of these prophecies, have shown that the chance someone could have fulfilled even just 8 of these prophecies is: 1 in 10 to the 17th power.  If you were to take that many girl scout cookies (that’s over a quintillion cookies) and you were to spread them across the state of Texas, they would cover every inch of the state, and form a layer of Girl scout cookies, two feet deep.  Now drop in just one Oreo cookie from a jet plane flying over the state, blindfold yourself and go find that cookie.  The chances of you finding the Oreo on first try is the same odds of fulfilling just 8 prophecies like Jesus did… except that he fulfilled 333 of them!

And there are hundreds of other prophecies in the Bible that have been fulfilled.

All this points to one thing… The Bible can be trusted.  Now you have a choice.  Let me illustrate that with this story:

William Franklin Graham steadied himself by gripping both sides of the podium. He was eighty years old, fighting Parkinson’s disease, but he stared intently at the throngs inside the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and spoke in a steady, forceful voice. There was no hint of hesitation, no uncertainty or ambiguity. His sermon was essentially the same simple and direct message he had been preaching for fifty years.

“God loves you so much that he gave us his Son to die on the cross for our sins. And he loves you so much that he will come into your life and change the direction of your life and make you a new person, whoever you are.” So he urged them to come. And they did.

Some five hundred miles north of where Billy Graham was staging his Indianapolis campaign, Charles Templeton a once long time friend of the evangelist was struggling with Alzheimer’s.  For Charles Templeton — ironically, once Billy Graham’s pulpit partner—questions about God hardened into bitter opposition toward Christianity. Like Graham, Templeton once spoke powerfully to crowds in vast arenas. Some even predicted Templeton would eventually eclipse Graham as an evangelist.

But that was a long time ago. That was before the crippling questions. Today Templeton’s faith—repeatedly punctured by persistent and obstinate doubts – has leaked away. Maybe forever. Maybe.

FROM FAITH TO DOUBT

The year was 1949. Thirty-year-old Billy Graham was unaware that he was on the brink of being catapulted into worldwide fame and influence. Ironically, as he readied himself for his breakthrough crusade in Los Angeles, he found himself grappling with uncertainty over the fundamental issue of whether he could totally trust what his Bible was telling him.

In his autobiography, Graham said he felt as if he were being stretched on a rack. Pulling him toward God was Henrietta Mears, the bright and compassionate Christian educator. Yanking him the other way was Graham’s close companion and preaching colleague, thirty-three-year-old Charles Templeton.

The skeptical Templeton was tugging his friend Billy Graham away from repeated assurances that the Scriptures are trustworthy. “Billy, you’re fifty years out of date,” he argued. ‘People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple.”

Templeton seemed to be winning the tug-of-war. “If I was not exactly doubtful,” Graham would recall, “I was certainly disturbed.” He knew that if he could not trust the Bible, he could not go on. The Los Angeles crusade — the event that would open the door to Graham’s worldwide ministry was hanging in the balance.

Graham searched the Scriptures for answers, he prayed, he pondered. Finally, in a heavy-hearted walk in the moonlit San Bernardino Mountains, everything came to a climax. Gripping a Bible, Graham dropped to his knees and confessed he couldn’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that Templeton was raising.

“At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. ‘Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.’”

Rising from his knees, tears in his eyes, Graham sensed the power of God as he hadn’t felt it for months. ‘Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed,” he said. “In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.

For Graham, it was a pivotal moment. For Templeton, it was a disappointing turn of events. Now on different paths, their lives began to diverge.

History knows what would happen to Graham in the succeeding years. He would become the most persuasive and effective evangelist of modern times and one of the most admired men in the world. But what would happen to Templeton? Decimated by doubts, he resigned from the ministry and moved to Canada where he became a commentator and novelist.

Now an aging man struggling with Alzheimer’s, Templeton would write that a God of love would never inflict that disease on anyone.  In fact it was the very issue of evil and suffering that caused the evangelist turned novelist to doubt the scriptures.  That’s how Lee Strobel found him.  “What caused you to lose your faith in God?”  He asked

“It was a photograph in Life magazine. It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?”

“Prior to that, I had been having more and more questions.  I found to my dismay that I could no longer believe the message. To believe it would be to deny the brain I had been given. It became quite clear that I had been wrong. So I made up my mind that I would leave the ministry. That’s essentially how I came to be agnostic.”

“Would you like to believe?”

“Of course” he exclaimed. “If I could, I would. I’m eighty-three years old. I’ve got Alzheimer’s. I’m dying, for goodness sake.  But I’ve spent my life thinking about it and I’m not going to change now. “No,” he declared. “No. There cannot be, in our world, a loving God.”. “There Can not be.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. He said as his voice began to crack, “I . . . miss . . . Him.”  I miss Jesus. With that, tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.

One man was headed for a life of blessing.  The other for a life of shipwrecked faith.  Which direction are you going?  And how will you bring down the blessing on your life?

[i] https://www.truelife.org/answers/are-errors-in-the-bible

[ii] http://alwaysbeready.com/bible-evidence?id=99

[iii] http://alwaysbeready.com/bible-evidence?id=99