Some Christian scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture – those 66 books that the Church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: (1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable, or (2) that early Church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.
As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his recent book – Can We Still Believe the Bible? – “there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”
But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?
For example, in 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.
Should the Church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.
Popular television shows like “Ghost Adventures” use the latest technologies to “prove” that spirits of the dead are all around us – and want to make their presence known.
But is this true? The short answer is no. As Christians, we must gauge all truth claims by the Bible, the ultimate and unchanging measure of reality.
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with numerous other sources, which are cited.
Reason 7: The testimony of the Savior
- Jesus claimed to be the Messiah / Christ, the divine Son of God and the divine Son of Man (Matt. 16:16-18; 26:63-64; John 8:58). He was confirmed by acts of God (John 3:2; Acts 2:22), and declared that He had been given all authority in heaven and earth to rule and to judge (Matt. 28:18; John 5:22). Therefore, His views on the Bible are extremely important. What did He have to say?
- Geisler writes, “Jesus declared that the Old Testament was divinely authoritative (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10); imperishable (Matt. 5:17-18); infallible (John 10:35); inerrant (Matt. 22:29; John 17:17); historically reliable (Matt. 12:40; 24:37-38); scientifically accurate (Matt. 19:4-5; John 3:12); and ultimately supreme (Matt. 15:3, 6)” (Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 559).
- Jesus also personally affirmed many things that Bible critics deny, for example: 1) God created a literal Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4); Jonah was actually swallowed by a great fish (Matt. 12:40); the whole world was destroyed by a flood in Noah’s day (Matt. 24:39); and there was one prophet Isaiah (not two or three) who wrote all of Isaiah (Mark 7:6-7; Luke 4:17-20).
- Jesus called the Old Testament “the word of God” (Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:13; John 10:35). He introduced Biblical quotes with “It is written,” the standard Jewish introduction to Scripture. In Matt. 22:43, he referred to David’s words in Psalm 110:1 as spoken by the Holy Spirit. He also promised that the Spirit would bring more truth, referring to the New Testament (John 14:25-26; 16:13).
- Jesus promised that the New Testament would be God’s Word. He told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them “all things” and lead them into “all truth” (John 14:26; 16:13). The apostles later claimed this divine authority for their words (John 20:31; 1 John 1:1; 4:1, 5-6). Peter acknowledged Paul’s writing as “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Next – Reason 8: The testimony of the Spirit
In Systematic Theology (Vol. 1), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. These articles borrow his headings and then incorporate some of Geisler’s research with other sources, which are cited.
Reason 3: The testimony of the scribes
- The 40 men who penned the scriptures over a period of 1,500 years insisted that their message came from God. Many were persecuted and even killed for their faith. Of the 11 faithful apostles plus Paul, only John escaped a martyr’s death, although he was boiled in oil and banished to Patmos; even at that, he continued to boldly proclaim divine truth.
- The authors of the Bible claimed to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit (2 Sam. 23:2; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21).
- The prophets ascribed their message to God. Phrases such as “Thus saith the Lord,” “God said,” and “the Word of the Lord came to me” are found hundreds of times in the Bible.
- The prophets were convinced they were speaking and writing God’s Word. Near the end of the Old Testament, Zechariah mentioned “the law (and) the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets” (Zech. 7:12). Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:21 that “prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Many of the prophets suffered and died for their belief that they were speaking God’s Word (Matt. 23:34-35).
- Writing about the Old Testament, Paul declared that “All Scripture is God-breathed …” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). New Testament writers like Peter referred to the writings of Paul as “Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). And the author of Hebrews ranked the New Testament with the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3).
- Non-Christian ancient writings attest to the truthfulness of the eyewitness accounts of Christ. Ancient history dealt almost exclusively with political or military rulers, or with religious and philosophical leaders of established and respected religions. Since Jesus fits none of these categories, we would expect to see very little about Him in non-Christian writings. Yet the Jewish historian Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities, written in the last third of the first century, corroborates the claims of the New Testament writers that Jesus was more than a man, was the Messiah, and rose from the dead on the third day (18:63-64, quoted in “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament,” Craig L. Blomberg, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, p. 215).
Next — Reason 4: The testimony of the supernatural
Did God really regret He created mankind, as Gen. 6:6 suggests? Why did He order King Saul to wipe out an entire race of people (I Sam. 15:18)? Who should be turned over to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5)? And what is the sin that brings death (1 John 5:16)? These are so-called “hard sayings” of the Bible.
What is a “hard saying?” Simply put, a “hard saying” is a passage of Scripture that is difficult to understand. We shouldn’t feel badly that we struggle with some Bible verses; even the apostle Peter had a hard time with some of Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16).
Why are some Bible passages difficult to understand?
- They seem to contradict other Scriptures (“No one has ever seen God”).
- They are isolated passages that cannot be cross-referenced with other Scriptures (“Being baptized for the dead”).
- They call God’s character into question (“The Lord regretted that He had made man”).
- Or they seem to make unreasonable – even unholy – demands of God’s people (“Go and complete destroy the sinful Amalekites”).
What are some keys to understanding these “hard sayings?”
- Context (who, what, when, where, why and how?)
- Key words (“The Lord regretted …”)
- Comparison (“I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau”)
In this 12-part study, we will explore some of the most prominent “hard sayings” in Scripture.