In Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) He identifies Himself as “the Beginning of God’s creation” (ESV). Does this mean that Jesus is the first being God created, as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim? Of course not. This self-description in no way implies that Jesus is a created being or came into existence at any time. He is the eternal Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word translated “Beginning” is arche, which carries the idea of “originator” or “active cause.” Paul instructed the Colossian church to share his letter with the church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). If his instructions were obeyed, then believers in Laodicea would have been familiar with Paul’s description of Christ as Creator: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [Greek prototokos, pre-eminent; not protoktisis, first-created] over all creation; because by Him everything was created … all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:15-16). Further, in Col. 2:9, Paul says of Christ, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature [or the deity] dwells bodily.”
John records in his Gospel, “All things were created through [or by] Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3). Jesus existed before Abraham and referred to Himself as “I AM,” the unique designation for Yahweh, the one true, living, and eternal God (John 8:58). The Jews sought to kill Him because, they said, He claimed equality with God (John 5:17; see also John 10:30-33). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus tells the Father He desires to partake once again of the glory that He shared with the Father before the world existed — a glory reserved for God alone (John 17:5; Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
There is no doubt Jesus is clear about who He is. As He stands before Caiaphas the high priest, He is asked point blank, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” Jesus answers with a Jewish idiom: “You have said it … But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man [a reference to Dan. 7:13 and a clear claim of deity] seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64). In the closing verses of Revelation, He calls Himself “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).
The bottom line: Jesus never came into existence; He has always existed. He was never created; He is the Creator.
This is the first in a nine-part series of articles offering sound reasons to believe the Bible is the Word of God.
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 other sources, all of which are cited.
Reason 1: The testimony of science
Much in the Bible demonstrates advanced scientific knowledge – that is, God revealed through human scribes information that only He knew long before scientists discovered these truths. For example:
- The exact order of events in the origin of all things. “In a day when the ancient polytheistic myths of origin prevailed, the author of Genesis declared that the universe came into being out of nothing by the act of a theistic God in the exact order that modern science discovered a millennium and a half later,” writes Geisler. “The universe came first (Gen. 1:1a), then the earth (1:1b), then the land and sea (1:10). After this came life in the sea (1:21), then land animals (1:24-25), and finally … human beings (1:27). This too supports the view that the author of Genesis had access to some intelligence as to how the Creator made the universe” (p. 545).
- Reproduction after each creature’s own kind. This scientific fact runs contrary to many ancient and even early modern views. Observation and the fossil record demonstrate that each type of life produces its own kind.
- The earth as the raw material of human bodies. Many ancient polytheistic beliefs claim that people cam from the gods; the Koran teaches that human beings were made from a blood clot (Sura 23:14); but the Bible explains that God made Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7).
- Rain water returning to its source (Eccl.. 1:7). Perhaps without even understanding it, the writer recorded the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation long before scientists figured it out.
- The shape of the world as it hangs in space. Job (26:7) and Isaiah (40:22) make remarkable statements contrary to the ancient belief that the earth was flat, or square. Some myths held that the earth rested on the back of Hercules or on pillars, but the Bible states otherwise.
- Life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), a fact declared in scripture more than 3,000 years ago and only fairly recently attested to in science.
- The sea’s paths and boundaries (Ps. 8:8; Prov. 8:29). The continental shelf that makes this possible is a fairly recent scientific discovery.
- The laws of sanitation (Lev. 12-15). Long before there was scientific knowledge of bacteria and germs, God instructed His people through laws of sanitation to protect themselves from diseases spread by unseen organisms.
Next – Reason 2: The testimony of the scrolls
Objection 5: The Bible is full of contradictions.
When someone raises this objection, a reasonable first response is, “Show me one.” Often, the person objecting cannot do so. However, it must be acknowledged that there are numerous places in scripture where there are seemingly conflicting testimonies and apparent contradictions. If the Bible comes from God, and if God does not make mistakes, how do we reconcile these Bible difficulties?
First, we should examine the Bible the same way we examine other documents, using the traditional rules of logic and reason. A good place to start is by applying the law of non-contradiction, which maintains that “nothing can both be and not be.” For example, it cannot be day and night in the same place at the same time. Therefore, if a passage of scripture violates the law of non-contradiction, its trustworthiness is undermined. At the same time, based on the law of non-contradiction, two statements may differ without being contradictory. For example, in Matthew, we read that Jesus met two blind men. In Mark and Luke, we only read about one blind man meeting Jesus. Are these contradictory statements? Not according to the law of non-contradiction and the rules of evidence. If Jesus met two men, He certainly met one. (By the way, alleged contradictions such as this provide supporting evidence for the veracity of the eyewitnesses; they show that the New Testament writers didn’t “get their story straight” in order to concoct a hoax.)
Second, we should consider translation and context. Some Bible passages appear contradictory because of the nuances of Bible translation. A case in point: The Book of Acts has two accounts of Paul’s conversion experience. Acts 9:7 (KJV) says the men journeying with Paul heard a voice but saw no one. Acts 22:9 (KJV) says they did not hear the voice. The two passages appear contradictory, but the Greek clears it up, as do some modern translations. The construction of the verb is different in each account. W.F. Arndt explains: “In Acts 9:7 it (the verb “to hear,” akouo), is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7 it is used with the genitive, in Acts 22:9 with the accusative. The construction with the genitive simply expresses that something is being heard or that certain sounds reach the ear; nothing is indicated as to whether a person understands what he hears or not. The construction with the accusative, however, describes a hearing, which includes mental apprehension of the message spoken. From this it becomes evident that the two passages are not contradictory” (Does the Bible Contradict Itself? Quoted in “Bible Contradictions – Appearance or Reality?” found in www.allabouttruth.org.)
Some additional considerations:
- Time. Some seemingly contradictory statements are separated by years – even hundreds of years – and must be seen in their proper time frame. For example, Gen. 1:31 records that God was satisfied with creation, while Gen. 6:6 says He was sorry that He made man. Contradictory? No. Keep in mind that hundreds of years, including the fall of man, came between the first and second statements.
- Context. A careful study of the chapters and books in which the seeming contradictions occurred often reveals subtle differences that aid understanding.
- Sense. Words and phrases can be used literally or figuratively. For example, Matt. 11:14 identifies John the Baptist as Elijah, yet in John 1:21 John denies being Elijah. Contradiction? No. In Matthew, Elijah is described as the spiritual antitype of the great prophet (see Luke 1:17).
- Quotations. Many references to Old Testament passages are not word-for-word quotes in the New Testament. Rather, they are paraphrases or summaries.
- Understanding. Some critics assume that passages they can’t explain cannot be explained by anyone. But hard sayings do not imply errors in transmission.
- Perspective. When two or more writers provide separate accounts of the same events, differences in names, numbers, and conversations may be accounted for by each writer’s perspective: What did he see? Who did he interview? What was most important to record? Who is the audience to whom he wrote? Should numbers be exact or rounded?
Rick Cornish summarizes: “The Bible enjoys a much better track record than the critics. They’ve been proven wrong man times; Scripture, not once. Even though criticized for centuries, it has stood the test of time. But skeptics play a constructive role. Their challenges force us to study and sometimes reevaluate our interpretations. But until they improve their own game, we need not worry about their accusation that ‘the Bible is full of errors and contradictions.’ It’s not” (5 Minute Apologist, p. 68).
Next — Objection 6: The Bible can’t be true because it depicts a different God in the Old and New Testaments.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Objection 4: It’s silly to assume that one book – the Bible – contains all of God’s truth and that other great writings, from the Vedas to the Book of Mormon, do not come from God.
In addressing this objection, we must begin with the claims of the documents themselves. The Bible specifically and repeatedly declares itself the written Word of God, while the Vedas do not. Even the Book of Mormon is called “another testament of Jesus Christ.” While many religious writings contain good moral and ethical truths, some of which are consistent with scripture, only the Bible claims to be God’s written and complete revelation to mankind. It answers life’s most important questions: Is there a God? Who is He? How did everything get here? What ‘s my purpose in life? Why is there so much evil in the world? What’s being done about it? Is there life after death? What’s my responsibility to God? And so on. The Bible’s claim to be the Word of God is backed up by unparalleled textual, archaeological, historical and other types of evidence. Most compelling, however, is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who authored the scriptures and who confirms in our human spirits the truth of God’s Word.
One other note: God’s revelation also has been given to us in creation and in the person of Jesus Christ. All people can observe creation, as the Psalmist did, and conclude that there is a divine designer behind all things (Ps. 8:3-4). And, as Paul wrote, God will hold us responsible for the revelation His has given us of Himself in nature (Rom. 1:18-23). At the same time, God became flesh in Jesus Christ and declared His truth (see John 1:1-3, 14). The testimonies of creation, of Jesus, and of the Bible are in complete harmony in declaring the truth of God’s revelation to us.
Next — Objection 5: The Bible is full of contradictions.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
According to Romans 1:18-20, every person will stand before God one day without excuse – that is, without an apologia or defense – because God has revealed Himself to all people in at least two ways:
- He has revealed Himself in our conscience.
- He has revealed Himself in creation.
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