The Importance of this Topic
This topic is of the highest importance for two reasons. Firstly because the Bible is God’s special means of revealing himself and his character to us, without which knowledge of God is limited to the inadequate inferences drawn from the Creation we see around us (general revelation).
Secondly, experience shows that, in one form or another, whatever the objections to, or questions about, the Christian faith they nearly all boil down to “You can’t believe the Bible”.
It is very important to establish the facts about the Bible, as against the many false ideas people have, because this can help to clear away misunderstandings that are barriers to faith.
What is the Bible?
a) The word literally means a ‘book’
b) However the Bible is actually a library of 66 books –
in the Old Testament 39 and in the New Testament 27.
c) It was written over period of about 1,500 years from the 14th Cent. B.C. to around 100 A.D. It was clearly then not put together by a ‘committee’.
d) It was not written many centuries after the events it records. The New Testament was finished by 100 AD within the lifetime of many who had witnessed the key events of Jesus death, resurrection and post-resurrection appearing to many people.
d) It has many authors. Many are named, or have pen-names, but many books are anonymous.
e) The bible contains varied types of literature (even within one book)-
e.g. history, court records, law, poetry, story, apocalyptic (hidden meaning writings) etc.
It is important to know what type we are reading for the best understanding.
a) “It is full of mistakes and has been distorted down the ages.”
Often an objection is made that the Bible is a series of translations of translations and therefore full of compounded translation and copy errors. This is fundamentally not true. The reality is that each modern bible translation (pretty much whatever version is being used) is made directly from ancient Greek and Hebrew texts and is not the result of a series of translations of translations.
Scholars now have thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament as well as many Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts and versions (supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls). The earliest existing New Testament manuscripts date from the 2nd Century AD.
It is true that copying was by hand for many centuries so errors certainly crept in and resulted in defective copies. However the application of modern methods of scientific textual scholarship enables the original text to be retrieved very accurately, and this is what is used as the basis for our English translations. So the Bibles we have are reliable, and we can be sure that the texts from which they are translated are, with very minor exceptions, what the original authors actually wrote.
It must be acknowledged that there are difficulties (e.g. Luke 22: 43, 44) and our publishers of Bibles make no attempt to hide these, however we can be assured that:-
“No essential Christian teaching depends on a debatable text”.
b) It is Ancient Myth
In response to this claim we can refer to the historical evidence -such as that provided by non-Christian historians such as Josephus; Tacitus etc. and also Luke’s claims to careful research . We can also respond with questions such as ” why would so many of the Apostles (and biblical writers) be prepared to give their lives for a cause if they knew it was made up i.e. a ‘Myth’?”
a) A Question of Wisdom.
A useful approach to the person who denies the validity of the Bible is to ask the question, “the main teaching of the Bible is about how a person may have a restored relationship with God (Eternal Life)”. What do you understand the Bible teaches about this?”
The reply nearly always indicates that the person does not know, generally because they haven’t read it! One can then respectfully suggest that is perhaps not very wise to reject the central message of the world’s best-selling book without having studied it.
b) Fulfilled Prophecies.
To someone who says the Bible was just written by men it might be helpful to read some of the Old Testament prophecies regarding Jesus (not saying who it is about). Many will recognise who is being spoken about. Point out that these were written centuries before Jesus’ life on earth and ask ‘how did these Old Testament men know about these things’?
For example who are Isaiah 7:14 and 53:5 and 6 (written approximately in the 7th century BC) talking about?
c) Unity of themes.
The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,500 years by a large number of different authors (i.e. not a committee). How is it that there is a consistent unity of themes running throughout in regard to-
e.g. The Nature of God throughout the whole bible
The problem with human nature and its rebellion against God
The reasons for evil, suffering
The solution to the human problem- turning to the God who saves
You Can’t Believe in Miracles-
To answer this there is a need to address the underlying presupposition that the “Laws” of science are assumed to exclude, or be violated by, the event of a miracle.
The person who says this usually starts from a position that “miracles don’t happen” and science doesn’t allow them. So their argument is that because the Bible talks about miracles (which don’t happen) it can’t be reliable. However Science and the bible are not incompatible (see Science, Faith and Bible article in this category).
Further, if the God who the Bible tells us engineered the greatest miracle (i.e. the creation of the universe) actually exists, then miracles will be just a cakewalk for Him!