Is the Bible Trustworthy?
- Tuesday, May 11, 2004
|Prophecy about Jesus||OT Reference||NT Fulfillment|
|Born of a virgin||Isaiah 7:14||Luke 1:26-28|
|His ministry in Galilee||Isaiah 9:1||Matthew 4:12-15|
|Teacher of parables||Psalm 78:2||Matthew 13:34|
|Crucified with thieves||Isaiah 53:12||Matthew 27:38|
|His resurrection||Psalm 16:10||Acts 2:31|
|His ascension||Psalm 68:18||Acts 1:9|
Can you imagine how people would receive a contemporary book that had this kind of success in predicting events even just one year in the future? People would flock to buy it, and the author would have a cult following. The verses you looked up are just a sampling of all the prophecies that have been fulfilled since the Bible was written. The Bible passes the test of reliability without a doubt!
The Unity of the Bible
The Bible would be less than trustworthy if its message wasn't consistent. The miraculous fact about the Bible is that it has one theme from beginning to end - the glory of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
When I think about the phenomenal unity of the Bible, as it demonstrates itself at every level of scrutiny, I enthusiastically agree with the following statement, which is said to have been found inside a Gideon's Bible:
This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.
The Bible presents a unified message, not a loose assortment of religious ideas. One amazing example of the Bible's unity is the comparison of the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer presents the life of Christ from a different angle:
Matthew - Jesus as the king
Mark - Jesus as a servant
Luke - Jesus as the perfect man
John - Jesus as the Son of God
These writers describe the same events in the life of Jesus, and even though they emphasize the events in different ways, their accounts all match up.
The rest of the Bible shows the same unity, despite the fact that it consists of sixty-six books written by some forty different authors over a period of fifteen hundred years. The unity of Scripture is one of the clearest indications of its supernatural origin. Only the sovereign God of the universe could have superintended the writing of Scripture so that every line remains in total agreement. The Bible is unquestionably the book that God wrote!
The Indestructibility of the Bible
If you scan the books on your bookshelf, how many of them were written more than twenty-five years ago? How many were written a century ago? How many were written a millennium ago? Truthfully, most books written today have a marketability of only a few short years.
The Bible has a different track record. Perhaps the earliest book in the Bible is Job. Although Bible historians cannot be sure of the date of the writing of the book, they believe Job lived around the time of Abraham. Job's lifespan probably occurred around four thousand years ago. The account may have been penned thirty-five thousand years ago. The Bible truly has lasted longer than any other book!
What's amazing about this record is that the Bible has survived in spite of tremendous persecution through the years. Arthur W. Pink, a Bible historian, writes:
When we bear in mind the fact that the Bible has been the special object of never ending persecution the wonder of the Bible's survival is changed into a miracle. . . . For two thousand years man's hatred of the Bible has been persistent, determined, relentless, and murderous. Every possible effort has been made to undermine faith in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and innumerable enterprises have been undertaken to consign it to oblivion. Imperial edicts have been issued to the effect that every known copy of the Bible should be destroyed, and when this measure failed to exterminate and annihilate God's Word, then commands were given that every person found with a copy of the Scriptures in his possession should be put to death. The very fact that the Bible has been so singled out for such relentless persecution causes us to wonder at such a unique phenomenon.
An interesting story about this persecution involves the Roman emperor Diocletian. In a royal edict proclaimed in A.D. 303, he demanded that every copy of the Bible be burned. Theologian Henry Thiessen describes the incredible results:
He had killed so many Christians and destroyed so many Bibles, that when the Christians remained silent for a season and kept in hiding, he thought that he had actually put an end to the Scriptures. He caused a medal to be struck with the inscription: "The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the [Roman] gods restored." But it was only a few years later that Constantine came to the throne and that he made Christianity the state religion. What would Diocletian say if he could return to earth and see how the Bible has gone on in its world mission?
The Bible Text
Another aspect of the Bible's indestructibility is the fact that the Bible we read today is a translation from texts that have not changed in thousands of years. Before the printing press was invented, the text of the Bible was copied by hand. The scribes who did the copying received special training. Some dedicated their entire lives to this task. They were so careful about what they did that after four thousand years scholars can find only a handful of letter discrepancies between the earliest Hebrew manuscripts and today's Bibles. Through these scribes and other events, God has preserved His Word through the centuries.
One of the most important factors supporting the accuracy of the Old Testament is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date from 200 B.C. to A.D. 68. In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy was traveling the northwest rim of the Dead Sea when he discovered a jar in a cave containing scrolls that had been hidden for nearly two thousand years. The term Dead Sea Scrolls became the standard designation for the fragmentary manuscripts discovered in the limestone caves around the Dead Sea. To the astonishment of biblical archaeologists, all the books of the Bible except the book of Esther are represented in the collection. Comparison with Old Testament manuscripts of a thousand years later shows little or no variation between them.
Contained in the manuscripts was a copy of the oldest known Hebrew manuscript of the book of Isaiah. Strikingly, the document is extremely similar to the book of Isaiah found in today's Bibles.
Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only seventeen letters in question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word, "light," which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore, this word is supported by the LXX and IQ Is (one of the Isaiah scrolls found in the Dead Sea caves). Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission - and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.
Dr. Burrows concludes, "It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration." The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls thoroughly discredits the charge that the original Old Testament has been lost because of numerous copies and translations. God certainly has protected His Word - for our benefit!
The Testimony from Church History
We can also go to sources outside the biblical text to prove its reliability. In addition to the Bible's own claims, the early church fathers also supported the inerrancy of Scripture. The early church fathers are significant because many people consider them to be the successors to the original apostles of Jesus.
Clement of Rome (A.D. 30-96), the third bishop of Rome and close associate of the apostle Paul (see Philippians 4:3), believed that the Scriptures were given through the Holy Spirit. Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430), considered to be one of the most outstanding theologians in all of church history, believed in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Saint Gregory the Great (A.D. 540-604), known for his great influence on shaping the doctrine, organization, and rules of discipline of the early church wrote: "Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things. We loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the Book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution."
The testimony of Scripture and the testimony of biblical scholars throughout the centuries is clear: The Bible is indeed reliable. The Bible is true because God is truth and cannot lie (see John 7:28). As a result, His Word is truth (see John 17:17). Now let us see how science affirms the Bible's trustworthiness.
Proof from Science
Although the Bible is not a scientific manual, when it mentions scientific facts, it is accurate. Sometimes these facts have not been proven true until centuries after they were written.
In the "Science" section of its March 5, 1990, issue, Time magazine had an item, "Score One for the Bible," refuting the research of the late British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, who claimed that Jericho was destroyed 150 years before the Bible records the Israelites' destruction of the city. Time also noted many facts consistent with the biblical story. While Bible believers certainly do not need scientific proof as a prop for their faith, it is always nice when science and periodicals like Time catch up with the Word of God. Here are a few of the scientific truths found in the Bible:
- Many centuries before Galileo (1564-1642) claimed that the earth was round, the Bible declared, "It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to Him like grasshoppers" (Isaiah 40:22).
- Matthew Maury (1806-1873) is considered the father of oceanography. When he was bedridden during a serious illness, he asked his son to read to him from the Bible. While listening to Psalm 8:8 in the King James Version, Maury noticed the expression "paths of the seas." Upon his recovery, Maury went looking for these paths, and as a result, discovered the continental currents. Maury's book on oceanography is still considered a basic text on the subject and continues to be used in many universities.
- A Roman engineer named Marcus Vitruvius discovered the hydrologic water cycle in 30 B.C. Yet this truth was fully revealed to mankind in 1600 B.C. The Bible records, "The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea" (Ecclesiastes 1:7).
- The earth's gravitational field is mentioned in Scripture: "God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing" (Job 26:7).
Because science supports the claims of the Bible, it is no wonder that many of the world's great scientists were Christians who looked to Scripture as the foundation for their knowledge of the universe. Examples include Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Robert Boyle, George Washington Carver, Michael Faraday, Samuel Morse, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, and the Wright brothers.
Proof from Archaeology
For centuries skeptics have claimed that the Bible is filled with historical errors. They have pointed to several biblical accounts, particularly in the Old Testament, where archaeology contradicted the Bible. So what has happened over the years? In many cases scientists have been proven to be inaccurate and the Bible has been shown to be trustworthy and reliable. Here are a few examples:
- Scientists stated that the Bible is historically inaccurate because they believed that King David was a fictional character. They said that the remains of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures make no specific reference to him. But recently an Assyrian stone tablet dating from the ninth century B.C. has been found by a group of archaeologists in northern Israel. It shows an Aramaic inscription listing Assyria's enemies. Included in the list were the words "king of Israel" and "house of David."
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