Sound reasons to trust the Scriptures (part 9)
This is the final installment of 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 numerous other sources, which are cited.
Reason 9: The testimony of the saved
- The Bible’s life-changing power is widely known through the testimony of those who have come to know Christ. The apostle Paul, once known as a Christ-hating persecutor, declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
- The writer of Hebrews declares: “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
- Peter added, “… you have been born again – not of perishable seed but of imperishable – through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
- The celebrated British archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, who began his studies as a skeptic, became a Christian after exploring the sites of Paul’s journeys firsthand and comparing them with the testimony of Acts (“The Historical Reliability of the New Testament,” Craig L. Blomberg, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, p. 220).
- Testimonies throughout the centuries and in this day speak emphatically and gloriously of the power of God’s Word to bring about a conviction of sin and forgiveness of that sin by faith in Jesus Christ.
Geisler concludes, “The Bible is the only known book in the world that both claims to be and proves to be the Word of God…. The testimony of science that demonstrates it, of the scrolls that transmit it, the scribes who wrote it, the supernatural that confirms it, the structure that manifests it, the stones that support it, the Savior who verified it, the Spirit that witnesses to it, and the saved who have been transformed by it. These combined testimonies confirm that the Bible is what it claims to be – the divinely inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God” (Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 561).
Sound reasons to trust the Scriptures (part 1)
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
How do I know the Bible is true? (Part 1)
This is the first in an eight-part series addressing skeptics’ claims against the Bible.
Christians believe in the reliability and authority of the scriptures. That is, we trust the Bible to be the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God and the authoritative source of all we believe and practice. By inerrant, we mean the original autographs are without error because they come from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). By infallible, we mean the Bible is incapable of error because God, as its author, does not lie or make mistakes (Num. 23:19). By inspired, we mean the Bible is “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16) And by authoritative, we mean that the Bible, as God’s Word, is His written revelation to us and must therefore guide our thoughts, words and deeds (Heb. 4:12).
But many people do not share such a high view of scripture. In fact, some raise serious objections to claims about the Bible’s truthfulness and reliability. While there are many objections, eight of the more common objections include:
- No one really knows what Bible says because the original manuscripts are lost.
- The Bible has been copied so many times, with so many variations, there’s no way to know what was originally scripted.
- The books of the Bible were chosen arbitrarily by councils of men in highly political processes. As a result, they left out some very good books – perhaps some equally inspired writings.
- 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.
- The Bible is full of contradictions.
- The Bible can’t be true because it depicts a different God in the Old and New Testaments.
- There are so many translations of the Bible today, it’s impossible to know which translation is the right one.
- There are so many Christian denominations today, it’s clear that Christians can’t agree on what the Bible teaches.
Responding to these objections is a daunting task – in part because critics raise some valid points. For example, it’s true that we do not have the “autographs,” or the original documents. At the same time, the Bible soars above other ancient documents in many convincing ways, providing evidence of reliability and consistency that gives Christians good reasons to trust it as the Word of God. Our faith is not, as some critics say, “blind faith,” but reasonable faith based on the evidence.
Every Christian should be confident the Bible is true because there are good answers to the skeptics’ objections.
Objection 1: No one really knows what Bible says because the original manuscripts are lost.
The second part of this statement is true: The “autographs,” or original manuscripts, written on a variety of degradable surfaces from parchment to papyrus, no longer exist. But the remarkable number of copies, dating back in some cases to within a generation of their authorship, makes the first half of this objection false. In fact, we have tremendous confidence in the reliability of the Bible because of its manuscript trail. Craig L. Blomberg writes, “In the original Greek alone, over 5,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments or portions of the NT have been preserved from the early centuries of Christianity. The oldest of these is a scrap of papyrus containing John 18:31-33, 37-38, dating from A.D. 125-130, no more than forty years after John’s Gospel was most probably written” (“The Historical Reliability of the New Testament,” Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, pp. 193-94). Andreas J. Kostenberger adds, “The total tally of more than 6,000 Greek mss., more than 10,000 Latin Vulgate mss., and more than 9,300 early versions results in over 25,000 witnesses to the text of the NT” (“Is the Bible Today What Was Originally Written?” found in www.4truth.net).
So how does the Bible stack up against other ancient manuscripts? According to scholar F.F. Bruce, we have nine or 10 good copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars; 20 copies of Livy’s Roman History; two copies of Tacitus’s Annals; and eight manuscripts of Thucydides’ History. The most documented secular work from antiquity is Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies. But the New Testament, with its thousands of Greek manuscripts alone, is the most highly documented book from the ancient world (The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable?, p. 16).
In short, while it’s true we are lacking the “autographs” of scripture, we have every sound reason to be confident that what we read today has been faithfully preserved through thousands of copies, many of them written in close chronological proximity to the time they were originally penned.
Next — Objection 2: The Bible has been copied so many times, with so many variations, there’s no way to know what was originally scripted.
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips