Friday, October 11, 2013

The Bible: Man Made Myths or God's Plan for Radical Redemption

Can the Bible be trusted? Is it simply a book full of contradictions and fairy tales with no historical evidence to back its claims or is it the inspired Word of God? This is one of the main questions that skeptics will present. If we are going to know why we believe the Bible, we need to be able to answer these questions. In his book God’s Not Dead, Dr. Rice Broocks gives the acronym SHARPER to help remember some of the main proofs for the validity of scripture.

            Same. The words of the Bible are 99% accurate and the vast majority of the words that are in question are simply misspells. There are 138,000 words in the New Testament, and only 1,400 of those words remain in doubt. The words that are in doubt do not change the Scripture’s meaning, its claims, or its doctrine. The Bible is not one book written by a single author like many other religious books, but it is a compilation of sixty-six books written by forty different authors over 1,600 years. The theme of salvation is maintained throughout all sixty-six books.

Historically accurate. The events described in the Bible are backed up by external sources and manuscripts, which will be discussed later. The Gospels, Acts, and the writings of the Apostle Paul all provide parallel accounts of Jesus life and his teachings.

            Archaeologically verified. The famous chemist and historian William Ramsay says about Luke, the author of the biblical books of Luke and Acts, “You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.” Luke’s reliability as a historian is unquestioned. Innumerable details from the New Testament have been established by archaeological findings. Because of the fact that many of the details described in the Gospels and Acts are not well known details, the writers must have been relying on first-hand experiences. If the Bible is simply a fallible book written by flawed men, you would expect that evidences would begin to compile against its reliability, but this is not the case. As discoveries are made, the evidence does not contradict the Bible, but on the contrary it strengthens the Bible’s accuracy.

            Reliable manuscripts. Let me begin by saying this, less than 2,000 manuscripts of Homer’s famous book Iliad have been discovered, but its authenticity is unquestioned. There are over 5,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts, and more than one hundred of them were written in the first four centuries. In medieval times, if a scribe made only a single error while hand copying the Bible’s text, the copy was instantly destroyed.  One of the greatest proofs for the Bible’s reliability and authentic text was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948.

            The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered by a young Arab boy in the caves of Khirbet Qumran, put to rest any claims that the Bible’s text had been distorted by rabbis and priests over the years. The scrolls were estimated to have been written between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D., which made them 900 years older than the earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament that had ever been discovered. One of the scrolls contained almost the entire book of Isaiah; this scroll was compared to the next earliest manuscript of Isaiah, which was nearly 900 hundred years older, and the two texts matched almost word for word! The Dead Sea scrolls contain manuscripts of every Old Testament book, with the solitary exception of the book of Esther. Amazingly, the scrolls did not just contain one manuscript of each book, but they contained five copies of the Pentateuch, ten copies of the book of Psalms, and twelve of the book of Isaiah. The discovery and analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls made it clear that the words of the Bible we read today are completely reliable and accurate.

            Prophetic. The supernatural nature of the Bible is revealed through the prediction of future of events which were fulfilled. For instance, the prophet Isaiah predicted that Cyrus, King of Persia, would allow the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. (Isaiah 44:28) Do not take this prediction lightly, he did not simply predict that a king would fulfill this, but he predicted the country he would rule and called him by name nearly one hundred years in advance. Despite many more fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament, some of the most striking are the fulfilled predictions of the life of Jesus Christ. Among the prophecies are Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would minister in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1-2), and that he would be a descendant of King David (Zechariah 9:9), along with the time in history that Jesus would walk the earth (Daniel 9:24-27). The fulfillment of these prophecies speaks to the fact that the Bible is not simply a book, but is inspired by God. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

            Extraordinary impact. The impact the Bible has made throughout history is unparalleled. The Bible has changed entire cultures and has impacted countless lives. It has empowered innumerable amounts people to overcome addiction, given them joy, given them purpose, restored families, and taken broken lives and returned them to fullness through the power of Jesus Christ. Skeptics announce that many individuals have adopted the Bible and not seen a positive outcome, but Jesus predicted that many people who claim to follow him would not follow his doctrine. Simply believing in the Bible or only reading it will not change your life, we are required to completely place our faith in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside. We have to recognize that we cannot merit our own salvation, but that forgiveness of sins comes solely through Jesus Christ. 

            Relevant. Although it was written thousands of years ago, the Bible is relevant to people of every age and in any time period. It has made just as much of an impact on today’s culture as it did on civilizations thousands of years ago. No matter how technology or culture has advanced, the Bible has not lost its relevancy whatsoever. With the incredible amount of scientific discoveries that have been made since the Bible was written, you would expect that, even though it is not a scientific book, The Scriptures would have content that conflicts with these discoveries. Incredibly, unlike other books from its time period, it does not oppose what science has uncovered. God’s Word only gains authenticity through these discoveries, for example, the discovery of “red shift” by Edwin Hubble in 1929. While it had been determined in the scientific community that the universe always had been and always would be, the discovery of “red shift” led scientists to conclude that there was a definite beginning to the universe. How is this evidence for the Bible? Well, the very first words of the Bible are, “In the beginning.” If scientists had looked to the Bible a bit sooner, perhaps they would have made this discovery earlier. 

The Bible is completely reliable and historically accurate, and any attempt to discredit its authenticity or validity is simply an unfounded effort to try and further an agenda. There are many people who make claims against the Bible’s authenticity, but very few of the skeptics have actually read the text for themselves. We can absolutely trust the words of the Bible to be true. We must be able to give the evidences for the Bible’s trustworthiness, and the SHARPER acronym is a great place to start. Know what you believe and know why you believe it.