Bible (How can we trust the Bible to be completely true?)

  1. Introduction
  • Lord, Liar, Lunatic argument
    • Who’s heard of this argument?
    • It is an argument for Jesus being Lord that was first presented in print by the late C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.
    • Later, the argument was adopted and fleshed out a little more by the popular apologist Josh McDowell.
    • It goes something like this:
      • This claim is either true or false.
      • If it is false, Jesus did one of two things:
        • He either intentionally made a false claim about Himself, which would make Him a liar.
        • Or He unintentionally made a false claim about Himself, which, a claim of this magnitude, would make Him delusional.
        • So, if Jesus claimed to be Lord and is not actually Lord, He is a liar or a lunatic.
        • Since we find strong evidence, both in Scripture and in other historical works that Jesus was a sound moral teacher, both of these options would be hard to fathom.
        • Thus, if we don’t want to call Jesus a Liar or a Lunatic, we must accept His claim as true, and call Him Lord.
    • While this particular argument centers around the Lordship of Christ, I think we can make a similar argument for the affirmation of the Bible as God’s word.
    • The argument would go something like this:
      • The Bible is God’s Word.
        • This claim is either true or false.
        • If false, the writers of the Bible either intentionally deceived the readers by claiming divine inspiration (which did happen in some works around this era), or they genuinely thought that they were being divinely inspired and were in fact not.
        • Similar to the previous argument, it seems as though the Bible is full of sound moral teaching, and even speaks explicitly against lying, so the first option seems to be out.
        • Second, unintentional claims of false inspiration would come from either a madman or a possessed man.
        • All the biblical writers were great followers of Christ, so being possessed by demons or being lunatics seems to be ruled out as well.
        • If this is the case, the only live option is that the biblical writers were divinely inspired to make the claim that the Bible is God’s Word.
  • To help buttress this intuitive argument, we’ll briefly look at 6 reasons for trusting the Bible as God’s wholly true word.
  1. Reason 1: Explicit Claims
  • If we want to affirm the Bible as God’s word, our case would be helped immensely if it claims itself to be God’s word.  Fortunately, these claims are made throughout the Bible.
  • Before getting to the actual claims, I do want to mention that, for the sake of time, I have to cherry-pick just a few references out of the many found in the Bible.
  • This explicit claim is quite clear and powerful:
    • 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16)
    • It does not get much more explicit than this.  The Bible clearly says that it is breathed out by God.  If its breathed out by Him, it is definitely His Word.
  • The second explicit claim is found at the end of the book of Luke.  Here, we find Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection and affirming the entire Old Testament as Scripture:
    • Luke 24:44-45 “The He said to them, ‘These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
    • The Old Testament is divided into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Here Jesus explicitly mentions all three components and refers to all three as Scripture.
  • The third explicit claim is actually a series of passages demonstrating where the New Testament explicitly considers itself to be on the same plane as Old Testament Scriptures, which we just saw universally affirmed by Jesus:
    • Matthew 21:42 “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures . . .”
    • Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
    • 2 Peter 3:15-16 “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
    • It is clear that in all of these instances the New Testament writers considered the New Testament writings to be the same as the Old Testament Scriptures.
  • The fourth and final explicit claim we’ll look at will demonstrate the Bible’s use of Scripture and God’s Word, which is used interchangeably.
    • We have already seen that all of the Bible considered itself to be Scripture.  Now we’ll see that these terms are understood to be equal.
    • This occurs when the New Testament quotes an Old Testament passage, but switches the reference from “God says” to “Scripture says” or vice versa.
    • Exodus 9:16 and Galatians 9:17
      • (EX) (God speaking) “But for this purpose I have raised you up . . .”
      • (GAL) “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘for this very purpose I have raised you up . . .”
    • Clearly Paul equates Scripture to be the same thing as the very Word of God.
    • There are several examples of this interchange being used throughout the Bible.
    • Clearly, the explicit claims of Scripture point to the Bible being God’s Word.
  1.  Reason 2: Prophecy
  • So far we have learned that the Bible claims itself to be the Word of God.  One unique aspect of the Bible, however, is that it went beyond mere claims.  It actually provides internal evidence that it is in fact the Word of God.
  • In biblical days you had many people claiming to be spokesmen for God.  The one’s that were genuine spokesmen were true prophets, while the one’s that were not were labeled false prophets.
    • Once of the primary ways true prophets demonstrated to the masses that they were in fact a messenger from God was by the amazing feats they performed.
      • A prime example of this is the story of Elijah.
    • In other words, God acted supernaturally on behalf of His prophets in order to show the masses that the prophet was in fact teaching the message of God.
    • In a similar manner, God used many prophecies to validate the explicit claims that the Bible is the Word of God.
  • Before I get into the specific prophecies, some of you may be asking “What is prophecy?”
    • In short, it is a prediction that later comes true.
    • Robert T. Boyd, in his word Boyd’s Handbook of Practical Apologetics lays out a few additional criteria needed for a prophecy to actually be considered “from God.”
      • 1. A prophecy must contain specific details that no human foresight could imagine.  It must be a prophecy in which there is no double meaning or misleading statements that exclude accident and/or guesswork.
      • 2. A prophecy must have proper timing.  It must be spoken long before the event takes place so that the lapse of time makes it impossible for the prophet himself to bring its fulfillment to pass.
      • 3. A prophecy is fully accredited only by its historical fulfillment.
    • And using these criteria, the Bible has hundreds of prophecies claimed in the Old Testament that came to fruition in the New Testament.
  • Specifically, nearly 300 prophecies were made in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah, which were all fulfilled by Jesus and documented in the New Testament.
    • In Isaiah 53 alone, we find at least 8 specific prophecies about the Messiah, which was written at least 800 years before Jesus was born to Mary.
      • A few examples in here are that Isaiah predicted Jesus would be pierced, which was recorded in John 19:34, that He make His grave with the wicked, which we find out in Matthew 27:38 that He was crucified next to two criminals, and that He would be with a rich man at His death, which we find in Matthew 27:57-60 that the rich man Joseph of Arimathea purchased Jesus’s body and placed it in a new tomb.
      • Ralph Muncaster, in his Examine the Evidence goes as far to say that Isaiah 53 contains 25 prophecies about Jesus.
    • Regardless of how many prophecies you find in Isaiah 53, we know that there are hundreds throughout the Bible.
    • The reason I stuck with the eight clear ones is because the fulfillment of just 8 prophecies is enough to provide a convincing testimony.
      • For example, the odds of just 8 Old Testament prophecies coming true in the New Testament are 1 in 10^17.
        • This is the same as covering the entire State of Texas in silver dollars two feet deep, marking one silver dollar, mixing the entire lot of dollars, and having someone reach in and pick the marked silver dollar on the “first try.”
        • In other words, pretty slim odds for only 8 prophecies!
      • If we bump the number up, however, from 8 prophecies to 16, the odds increase to 1 in 10^45.
      • And if we bump it up again, this time to 48 prophecies, the odds go all the way to 1 in 10^157.
        • For a frame of reference, there are only 10^79 electrons in the entire known universe.  That includes all of the billions of stars and galaxies.
        • And the odds of 48 prophecies coming true is about exponentially higher.  I used to say it was double, but then I did the math, and I far, far, far unsold the odds!  You wouldn’t have to double the number, you’d have to multiply it by itself.
          • For example, let’s say you had a hundred dollars, and could either double it or multiple it by itself.
          • Doubling $100 would be $200. Multiplying by itself would be $10,000.
          • What about $1,000?
          • Doubling would be $2,000, Multiplying would be $1,000,000.
          • The bigger the number, the greater the discrepancy between doubling and multiplying.
    • To me, these numbers are incredible.  Especially considering that Jesus fulfilled almost 300 Old Testament prophecies.
  • For things this amazing to occur, it’s clear that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, and the Bible is in fact the Word of God.
  1.  Reason 3: Unity
  • The final argument we will be examine is the incredible unity of the Bible.
  • There is no way that a text could be put together like this without it being the actual word of God.
  • Popular Christian apologist Josh McDowell, in his The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict notes that the Bible is the only book that was:
    • 1. Written over a 1500 year span.
    • 2. Written by more than forty different authors, for all walks of life, including kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fisherman, tax collectors, poets, scholars, shepherds, doctors and more.
    • 3. Written in various places including the wilderness, in dungeons, in prisons, while traveling, while in exile, and more.
    • 4. Written at different times, including in times of war and sacrifice and times of peace and prosperity.
    • 5. Written during different moods, including the heights of joy, the depths of sorrow, times of certainty, and during days of doubts.
    • 6. Written across three different continents.
    • 7. Written in three different languages.
    • 8. Written in a variety of literary styles.
    • 9. Written to address hundreds of controversial subjects.
    • 10. Yet in the midst of all this tells the one central story of God’s redemption of man without a single error or contradiction.
  • Think about that for a minute.  The Bible was written over the course of all these circumstances yet never erred or deviated in message.  That is clearly a Work of God.
    • How many of you have played the telephone game growing up?
      • You know, the one where the first person whispers something in their neighbors ear, then they whisper the message to the next person, and so and on and so forth until the last person.  Then the last person blurts out the message, which is supposed to be the same as the first, but it never is.
      • We have trouble telling a single, simple message with 20 kids at one time in one place, much less over the course of 1500 years and 3 continents.
  • Clearly, the unity of the Bible is another evidence of it being God’s Word.
  • Reason 4: Logic
  • With that we have two basic types of logical arguments: inductive arguments and deductive arguments.
    • In some ways these types of arguments are opposites of each other.
      • For an inductive argument, you start with a claim, and then find and build evidence to support the claim.
        • For example, if I wanted to build an inductive argument for me being a Texan, it might go something like this:
        • I am a Texan, and can prove it by showing you my driver’s license that has my current address on it, showing you my voter’s registration card, and showing you my birth certificate, etc.
        • In other words, I support my claim for being a Texan by all of the evidence I provide.
      • On the other hand, if I were to build my case using a deductive argument, which is considered formal logic, I would start with my premises, which would then necessarily lead to my conclusion.
        • For example, it would go something like this:
          • All Wichita County residents are Texans.
          • I am a Wichita County resident.
          • Therefore, I am a Texan.
        • This is a simple deductive argument
          • You always have at least two premises and a conclusion that naturally follows the premises.
          • In order to defeat a formal, or deductive argument, you can’t attack the conclusion, but must rather attack one of the premises.
          • In our previous example, if you wanted to disprove the fact I am a Texan, you would have to find a problem with one of my two premises.
          • If you can’t find a problem with either premise, and the premises naturally lead to the conclusion, then you must conclude that it’s a sound argument.
        • Let’s go back to our argument for a second, and switch something around.  Let’s change it to:
          • All Texans are Wichita County residents.
          • I am a Texan.
          • I am a Wichita County resident.
        • This would be an example of an unsound argument.
          • Although the conclusion follows from the premises, the first premise isn’t true.
    • Having looked briefly at the components of a deductive argument, let’s take a look at an argument for the inerrancy of the Bible.
      • For those who don’t know the term inerrancy, it simply means “without error”
        • Remember that our goal in this study was to show how the Bible is the wholly true Word of God.
        • It cannot be wholly true if it’s not inerrant.
      • So now we have the basic deductive argument for inerrancy presented by Norman Geisler:
        • God cannot err.
        • The Bible is the Word of God.
        • Therefore, the Bible cannot err.
      • This is a very simple, but potent argument.
        • Just by looking at it, we can see that it flows naturally.  Thus, the conclusion must be true if the premises are true.  So for someone to try to take out this argument, they would have to attack the premises.
        • The first premise, “God cannot err” doesn’t have much controversy.
          • The only potential controversy is that it assumes the existence of God.  But even an atheist would conclude that if God existed, then he couldn’t err.  For if He could err, by definition he would not be God.
            • Example: God is the greatest conceivable being.  In other words, God is the greatest being that we could ever think of.  Since we can think of a being that cannot err, God must have that quality.
              • For if God erred, then it would be possible for us to think of a superior being, which is non-sense
          • So if God exists, one must take this premise to be true.
        • The second premise is where the controversy arises, “The Bible is the Word of God.”
          • This is, however, the exact statement that we spent the first part of this study affirming.
          • We see that the Bible itself tells us it is the Word of God, and we have both prophecy and unity to support that internal claim.
        • If we affirm the Bible as the Word of God, then, we must also affirm the Bible as inerrant, or wholly true.
    • Does this make sense?  Using this formal argument, we have deduced that if the Bible is in fact God’s Word, then it must naturally follow that it is wholly true and without error.
    • We may now shift gears and look at some two inductive arguments for the Bible being God’s wholly true Word.
  •  Reason 5: Science
  • Remember, an inductive argument, or informal logic, is used to build a case for a claim using evidence.
  • At this juncture, we will be building a case for the Bible using scientific evidence.
  • This may be a bit surprising to some.
    • For some reason, many people on both sides of the spectrum like to say that the Bible or faith and science are mutually exclusive.
    • But this undermines the early Christian thinker, Augustine’s famous claim that “All truth is God’s truth.”
      • Think about that for a minute.  If God truly is the creator of the entire universe, then everything within it comes from His hands.  As such, everything that is true, be it spiritual, scientific or otherwise, all must have come from the hand of God.
      • And if that’s the case, we should have no problem affirming that science and faith should mesh together quite nicely.
    • Surprisingly enough, a brief journey through the history of science will demonstrate this to be the case.
    • In fact, there has never been a single definitive scientific finding that has disproven any claim in the Bible.
      • On the contrary, there have been many scientific discoveries that, when compared with the Bible, confirmed the Bible to be true.
    • At this point we are going to look at just a few of those instances:
      • 1) The Roundness of the Earth
        • In elementary we were all taught the famous saying: In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
        • We know that to be a pivotal moment in history, as that voyage had a great impact on the later settling of the Americas.
        • But it was also controversial for another reason.  Some scientists during that day believed that what Columbus proposed to do was suicide, as some of them believed that the earth was flat.
          • So as recently as the late 15th Century we have scientists who believed in a flat earth.
        • Yet, nearly 2,000 years prior, we have Isaiah teaching something different.
          • Isaiah 40:22 says, “Is it he who sits above the circle of the earth . . .”
          • In the ESV we see the word translated circle.  A more full meaning of the Hebrew word indicates something round or spherical.
        • So, in essence, we see that the Bible rightly knew the shape of the earth almost 2,000 years before modern science confirmed it.
      • 2) The Water Cycle
        • You know, the process that water takes. It starts as a body of water.  The sun beats down on the body of water, and much of the water evaporates.  As the water evaporates, it builds and condenses in the sky in the form of clouds.  As the clouds become too full, it returns to the earth in the form of rain.  Which then evaporates, and so on and so forth.
        • Modern scientists didn’t fully understand this whole cycle until the 1700s.
        • Yet the earliest written book of the Bible, Job, describes this process in remarkable detail somewhere around 3,000 B.C., or some 4,700 year before science understood the concept.
          • Job 36:27-28 says: “For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly.
        • Again we see science confirming what Scripture taught thousands of years prior.
      • 3)  8th Day Circumcision
        • In Genesis 17 we find the covenant of circumcision made between God and Abraham.
          • This is where God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, and promised him that he would be the father of many nations.
          • Abraham’s part of the covenant is that all of his male offspring must be circumcised, which would serve as a sign of this great covenant.
        • In Genesis 17:12, we find the very specific time for when the circumcision was to be done:
          • He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised
        • Interestingly enough, modern science and medicine has recently discovered that during the eighth day of life, a baby’s prothrombin, which is the key coagulating factor in blood,  is at its highest level.  Also, this is allegedly the day that the human body’s immune system is at its peak.
          • For a group of people who knew nothing about medicine, they were guided by God to perform this covenant act in a manner that most accords with the finding of modern medicine and science.
        • Clearly, this is not something that happened by mere chance.
        • Rather, this is another evidence that all truth is God’s truth, and that we can be confident that as we continue to progress in the various fields of science, the truth of the Bible will continue to become more and more clear.
      • Remember, no scientific discovery has ever disproven the Bible.  But these three scientific discoveries, as well as the many I am not able to list for space sake, all help to confirm the validity of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.
  •  Reason 6: History
  • The final argument we will look at in this study involves the amazing manuscript evidence we have.
  • The manuscript evidence gives us assurance that the Bible we have in our hands today has no major differences from the original texts.
  • Back in the days of ancient history, there was of course no printing press.  All books and copies of books were written by hand.
    • There was actually a profession more prevalent in ancient times called a scribe, who did nothing other than hand-copy text.
      • These were highly trained individuals who took great care in copying everything exactly the same.
      • But at the same time they are human, so small mistakes sometimes occurred.
    • For any ancient text, the more manuscripts we have, and the closer to the writing of the original we have them, are considered to be more reliable.
      • The greatest manuscript evidence for a non-biblical ancient text is Homer’s Illiad.
        • For many classics scholars, it is the gold standard for ensuring we have an accurate text.
        • There are 643 manuscripts of the Illiad that date back to only 400 years after the original.
          • Both the 643 number and the 400 years are incredible in the field of classics.
          • With these numbers, no scholars question the authenticity or content of the work.
      • Other works that are considered to be viewed as authentic and true are as follows:
        • Julius Ceasar’s Gallic Wars
          • 10 manuscripts, 1,000 years after the original
        • Plato’s works
          • 7 manuscripts, 1,300 years after the original
        • Herodotus’s History
          • 8 manuscripts, 1,350 years after the original
        • And so on and so forth.
        • The Illiad clearly has the most and closest manuscripts, but most ancient works only have about 5-10 manuscripts dating 1,000 to 1,500 years after the original.
        • And classic scholars have no problem with considering these works to be representative of the author’s original work.
      • Now let’s compare those with the New Testament.
        • There are approximately 5,700 manuscripts of the New Testament which date between 50 and 225 years of the original text.
        • In other words, the quality and quantity of New Testament manuscripts blows all other ancient texts out of the water.
          • Further, all of these manuscripts teach the exact same things, and confirms the truth and reliability of the text we have in our hands today.
        • The sheer volume of manuscript evidence for the New Testament helps demonstrates that God supernaturally has preserved His Word for us so that we may know that when we read the Bible, we are reading His wholly true Word.
    • So we have looked at manuscript evidence for the New Testament, but what about the Old Testament?
      • This was a major question until about 60 years ago.
      • Prior to then, there were no Old Testament manuscripts that dated before A.D. 900, or at least 1,300 years from the original texts.
        • There were still an abundance of texts that demonstrated the consistency, but all of the texts were quite recent, which led to some doubt by some scholars.
      • All of this changed, however, with one little incident in 1946.
        • In February or March of that year, a young shepherd boy was looking for a lost goat about eight miles south of Jericho.
        • As he trekked about, he saw a hole in a cliff on the west side of the Dead Sea.
        • Frustrated at losing the goat, he tossed a stone into the hole.
        • To his surprise he heard the sound of broken pottery.
        • He then rushed in the cave and found several large clay pots, all containing leather scrolls wrapped in linen cloths.
          • This method of sealing the jars preserved the scrolls for an amazing length of time.
        • Further investigation of the area turned up additional caves, of which produced more than 300 scrolls containing some forty thousand manuscript fragments from over 500 ancient books, dating back anywhere from 2 century B.C. to first century A.D.
      • Amazingly, whole or parts of every Old Testament book, with the exception of Esther, was found in these caves.
      • Essentially, in the course of time it took to excavate all of these caves, solid manuscript support for the Old Testament grew exponentially.
        • Scholars were able to take the Masoretic texts from A.D. 900-1000 and compare them to manuscripts 1,000 years old and older.
        • And what did they find?
        • Near exact copies of the earlier texts.
      • This one find gave huge manuscript support to the claims that the Old Testament is the wholly true Word of God.
    • We have seen that both the Old and New Testaments have far more manuscript support than any other book in history.
    • We can safely conclude that this is because it is the most important book in all of history.
    • It is the only book that claims to be, and can be externally verified as the inerrant Word of God.

VII: Conclusion

  • Geisler, in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics tells a bit more on the unity of the Bible:
  • “There is one central theme, the person of Jesus Christ, even by implication in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament Christ is anticipated; in the New Testament he is realized.  There is one message: Humankind’s problem is sin, and the solution is salvation through Christ.”
  • These words really hit home.  We are looking at God’s very Word.  His revelation to us.  The central theme of His Word is that while we sinned against Him, He sent Jesus Christ on our behalf.  We can be redeemed through the blood of Christ.

[Also see: Canon (N.T.)]