WHY BELIEVE THE BIBLE?
by David Walker
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inerrent, infallible truth given to man by the Holy Spirit. We believe that we are to live our lives according to the guidelines given in the Bible, and that it was written under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, with the possible exception of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which was obviously revealed to John by Christ Himself. However, before we can use the Bible to support any other positions we might take, we must first demonstrate that the Bible itself is what it claims to be: the word of God.
These are just a few of the common objections to the claim that the Bible is the word of God, and my answers:
Objection: Since the Bible is so old, and has been copied and recopied so many times, isn't it likely that the original meaning has been lost or changed, either on purpose or by accident?
Answer: This requires a two-part anwer.
Old Testament: Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest known existing manuscript of the O.T. was the Massoretic Text, dated about 900 A.D. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, fragments of almost every book in the O.T. were found, including two complete copies of the book of Isaiah. These were dated appoximately 150 B.C., over 1000 years earlier! When the two texts were compared to each other, the texts dated 150 B.C. proved to be virtually identical to today's standard Hebrew Bible (which is what our Old Testament comes from) in 95% of the text. The 5% variation between the two can be easily explained by obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. From discoveries such as these, Christians today have undeniable evidence that the Old Testament they read is the same one that was written millenia ago.
New Testament: There are more copies of the New Testament in existence today than any other ancient manuscript. I am not referring to the New Testaments being printed today, but rather the copies and translations made hundreds of years ago. Currently we know of more than 24,000 complete and partial copies of the New Testament in existence. By comparison, there are only 643 surviving manuscripts of Homer's Iliad. No other ancient document can claim more than a fragment of the number of copies as the N.T. Also, when you compare the time span between the original writings (autographs) and the oldest copies, no other book of antiquity has a shorter time span than the N.T. The oldest copy of the N.T. has a time span of only 25 years from when it was originally written! The oldest copy of Homer's Iliad has been dated almost 500 years after the original manuscript. So, not enough time elapsed between the original documents and the oldest copies for there to be any measurable difference. As far as accuracy is concerned, when the oldest copies of N.T. books were compared with today's version, they proved to be 99.5% identical. Of the 0.5% differences, none had anything to do with doctrinal teachings. No other book comes close to the Bible as far as lack of textual corruption.
Objection: Hasn't modern archaeology proven that many of the places mentioned in the Bible never existed?
Answer: Actually, exactly the opposite is true. In the last 100 years, archaeology has discovered many other references to the same cities, places, and people mentioned in the Bible. In many instances, the actual sites spoken of in the Bible have been found. Nelson Glueck, a scholar specializing in ancient documents was quoted as saying, "it can be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference."
Objection: O.K. So the Bible is the same today as it was thousands of years ago. That still doesn't prove that it's God's word. Why should I believe that it is truly the word of God?
Answer: In a word: prophecy. More than a third of the Bible deals with the subject of prophecy, with the large majority of these prophecies having already been fulfilled. Every single prophecy concerning Jesus' first coming was fulfilled literally. Even today, we can see prophecy being fulfilled all around us. The most impressive example is the nation of Israel. No other ancient nation has ever completely ceased to exist (not just changed it's name), with it's citizens scattered throughout the world, and been reborn. One hundred years ago, no one would have ever thought that Israel would ever exist in anything except the pages of the Bible. Another example is the European Union, referred to often as the Revived Roman Empire. For centuries these nations fought tooth and nail against each other. Now they are economic partners and members of a Unified Europe. The Asian nations, referred to as the kings of the East, have been enemies for centuries. And yet, now we hear about economic ties being formed there also. All of this has been predicted by the Bible for 2000 years or longer! For even one of these to occur would have been remarkable, but for all of this happening at the same time in history? That is beyond coincidence. It can only be God's prophetic word being fulfilled, and it was all written by men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit millenia ago. It is impossible to study Bible prophecy (with an unbiased, open mind) and not realize that something or someone outside the experience of man was instrumental in the writing of it. That Someone is God and His Holy Spirit. Consider this: Many people feel that Nostradamus was the greatest seer of the future in history. Yet many of his quatrains (prophecies) have been proven wrong. So far, every single prophecy of the Bible that we can verify has come to pass. A track record like that can only come from one source: God.
Objection: If the Bible was written by men, how can we be sure that it is truly the word of God, and that it wasn't written from a man's point of view?
Answer: As stated above, since the Bible was written under the direct guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit, we therefore believe in it's inerrency. Christians do not believe that God would have allowed His positions to be misinterpretted or mistated.
Objection: If the Bible is the word of God, why does it contradict itself? Would God contradict Himself?
Answer: Many people have tried to claim that the Bible contradicts itself, and, therefore, cannot be the inerrent word of God. When asked where the Bible supposedly contradicts itself, though, most usually have no answer. They are just repeating something they heard someone else say, without bothering to check the facts themselves. As for those people who have done some studying of the Bible, what we find is that they will run across a section which, on the surface, appears to contradict something said in another section. They then write down the verses, and go try to find someone to challenge with this information. If the person they find has not studied the Bible other than to just read the same words as the person making the objection, then another "convert" is born who believes the Bible contradicts itself.
But if we take time to sit down and study the Bible; thoroughly checking into what the text is actually saying in context with the surrounding verses, many times that alone will show that there is no contradiction. When that isn't sufficient, we have to dig a little deeper.
Many of the English words used in today's Bible have been used to translate more than one Hebrew or Greek word used in the original texts. The Hebrew and Greek languages used different words to convey different meanings in various situations. Many times, the same English word had to be used in translation, even though different Hebrew or Greek words were originally used in order to say slightly different things. This is not to say that the English word used is the wrong one, just that there is "more to the story" than what is immediately apparent on the surface. For example, occasionally someone just learning English will get confused because, in different situations, the same English word can mean different things. Consider this sentence:
I hope my car will run well enought to run me to the store and back before I get a run in this paint.
It's a rather poor sentence, I know, but a good example. The word "run" is used three times to convey three different ideas, even though it is spelled the same each time. Since we are familiar with English, we know what the difference is, but someone just learning English might be very confused by this sentence. In the Hebrew and Greek languages used to write the Old and New Testament, three completely different words would have been used, although they might translate into the same word when changed to English. It wouldn't be the wrong English word, but we would have to check the original text in order to understand what was actually being said. When we check the "contradictions" in the Bible these ways, we find that there are no contradictions at all.
I'm sure that there are more questions and objections than these. Unfortunately, these were the only ones I could think of at this time. If you have a question that wasn't answered here, please e-mail it to me, and I will attempt to answer it and add it here.
Questions, comments, criticisms, critiques?
Let me know!
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