CAN WE TRUST THE BIBLE AS GOD’S WORD

 

Gods-wordAt our first equipping evening we introduced you to a very helpful App called One2One, available on iOs and Android.We hope some of you have had the opportunity of using it in walking with a new believer. You will also recall that we spoke about the amazing inheritance that we have received as Christians. We inherited the promises of God, which are all Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus.[1] We have also inherited the living presence of Almighty God, who dwells in us as the Holy Spirit.[2] God is our greatest inheritance. I remind you of the words of Peter in:   

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

I remind you of the inheritance of the prevailing Word of God, on which all the promises of God are based, from which we get the assurance of His presence and a knowledge of which is essential for living a god pleasing life. Hear the word of Jesus:

Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Which all begs the question: If the Bible is our foundation for believing what we do about God’s promises, God’s presence and God’s Word, how can we be sure that the Bible is in fact the Word of God? Can we trust the Bible?

The world has become a confusing place to live in, with no more absolute truths, only truths that are relevant to each individual. On the one hand Postmodern Western society generally prides itself on having been liberated, liberated from the old morality, liberated from the old sexuality, liberated from the old views of God and that God is an old prop that the enlightenment has freed us from. Man wants to be the master of his own destiny.[3]

On the other hand and in striking contrast lies the majority of the world population, particularly in the East and in third world countries who still believe that there is a god.[4]

Is there a God or not? If there is a God, who is He? One of the Christian fathers, Augustine, once famously said that every human heart has a God shaped vacuum that can only be filled by God. How do we know that God is God? How do we know who God is? Why is this important at all? Because no other god will ever be able to fill the void designed for the one True God.

During the course of these equipping evenings our foundation will always be the Bible but we will be introducing you to some reliable resources and trusted theologians and authors in the hope that some of you will be inspired to read and study the Bible further. [5] One of these trusted authors and theologians is Wayne Grudem, who wrote an introduction to Biblical Doctrine, called Systematic Theology. His systematic main headings are:

  • The doctrine of the Word of God;
  • The doctrine of God;
  • The doctrine of man;
  • The doctrine of Christ;
  • The doctrine of the Holy Spirit;
  • The doctrine of the application of Redemption;
  • The doctrine of the Church;
  • The doctrine of the future.

Note where Grudem starts, he starts where all the Christian doctrines come from! Where do we get our understanding of these foundational matters of faith from? They come through the specific revelation of God Himself, through His Word, the Bible. The Bible tells us that God chose to reveal Himself to us in 3 ways, through general revelation and through two ways of special revelation.

  1. General revelation;

Psalms 19:1-2 (ESV)
1 … A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Romans 1:19-20 (ESV)
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

  1. Special Revelation—the Bible

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

  1. Special revelation—Jesus Christ

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

It is vital to see that our understanding of God’s general revelation, of His special revelation through Jesus Christ and His special revelation through His written Word, all came through the Bible.

Which again brings us back to the question, is the Bible the Word of God? This is an essential question we all need to settle in our hearts and minds once and for all. This is the foundation we all need to be convinced of in order to withstand the corrosion of objective truth and morality both within and without the church. The survival of the Church that Jesus is building is dependent on this foundation. With regard to our mission and engagement with the world around us daily, the following scripture sets the proper reason and motive for us knowing God’s Word and being convinced of its truth:

1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)
15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Within the church itself, there are many different opinions as to how we as believers need to view the Bible. The two main views within the church are:

  • The Inspired View: The Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. This is the predominant view that has generally prevailed for 2000 years. Harvest would class itself within this group.
  • The Relative View: In the past 200-300 years or so an open confrontation between religion and science developed over the issues of revelation, inspiration and the authority of the Bible. This lead to the development of schools such as Higher Criticism, the Documentary Hypothesis, the Jesus Seminar etc., leading to the abandoning of certain orthodox doctrines eg the virgin birth of Christ, the reality of hell, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, miracles, healing, the supernatural, the credibility of the Bible and many more.[6]

On this equipping evening we will be focusing on the Bible under the following headings:

IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD? INTERNAL EVIDENCE

IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD? EXTERNAL EVIDENCE 

  1. IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD? INTERNAL EVIDENCE

Our anchor scripture is:

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

The Greek word for God breathed is “Theopneustos”. If God breathed out the Bible then the Bible has intrinsic value and power of itself. Because it was breathed out by God, because it is God’s Word, it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.

  • If the Bible is the Word of God then God is able to confirm His Word from His Word itself.
  • If the Bible is the Word of God, then God is able to reveal Himself and His character through His Word.
  • If the Bible is the Word of God then “The Bible conveys God’s message and carries the same weight God Himself would command if He were speaking to us personally” (Millard J Erikson)
  • If the Bible was written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then the Bible, correctly interpreted, is the objective basis of authority and truth.
  • Because the Bible is breathed out and written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the following saying is quite thought provoking: “If you have the Bible without the Spirit, you may dry up. If you have the Spirit without the Bible, you might blow up. If you have the Bible and the Spirit, you will grow up.”
  • If the Bible is the Word of God, it is Truth. For TRUTH to be truth it must be objective, apply to all of life and reality and cannot be changed by time or circumstance, but is there to be discovered or rediscovered.

Let’s look briefly at 5 aspects under the Internal Evidence of the Bible itself.

  • THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE
  • THE INERRANCY OF THE BIBLE
  • THE CLARITY OF THE BIBLE
  • THE NECESSITY OF THE BIBLE
  • THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE BIBLE
  • THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE

Definition:  “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God” (Grudem)

  • The Bible itself claims that all the words in Scripture are God’s Words:
  • Old Testament prophets claim to be divine messengers when they say “Thus says the Lord”, which appears hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Here are just a few:

Moses:

Deuteronomy 18:18-20 (ESV)

18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’

Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:9 (ESV)

9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 2:7 (ESV)

7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. [7]

  • The New Testament confirms that the Old Testament is the Word of God:

Paul

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Peter

2 Peter 1:21 (ESV)

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus

Matthew 5:17 (ESV)

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.[8]

  • The New Testament also affirms itself as the Word of God. The NT writers claim their message is authoritative for the church. By their voice and words the church was born, miracles were performed, the disobedient were judged and the Holy Spirit was given to Samaritans and Gentiles. The New Testament writers compare their message to the OT prophets:

Acts 2:42 (ESV)

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 14:37 (ESV)

37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.

In 1 Tim 5:18 Paul quotes from Luke 10:7 and from Deut 25:4 under one phrase, “for the Scripture says”.[9]

  • If Scripture is God breathed, Jesus promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit to His disciples:

  John 14:26 (ESV)

            26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will

            teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

(Matt 10:19-20 / Luke 12:11-12/ Mark 13: 11)[10]

  • The apostles claim specific authority in their writings:
  • Timothy 4:11 (ESV)

Command and teach these things.

(Tit 2:15/ 2 Pet 3:2)

  • The letters written were to be circulated

2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

(Col 4:16/ 1 Thes 5:27)

The argument is sometimes used that to allow the Bible to justify itself comprises a form of circular argument and cannot stand. Geisler and Nix disagree.[11]

  • The Holy Spirit witnesses that the Bible is the Word of God;

2 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV)

20  knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.

21  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.[12]

  • THE INERRANCY AND TRUTHFULLNESS OF THE BIBLE

Definition: The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything which is contrary to fact. (Grudem)

  • God cannot lie or speak falsely

Titus 1:2 (ESV)

2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

1 Samuel 15:29 (ESV)

29  And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.

Hebrews 6:18 (ESV)

18  so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

  • All the words in Scripture are completely true and without error in any part

Proverbs 30:5 (ESV)

5  Every word of God proves true; he is a shield  to those who take refuge in him.[13]                                     

  • God’s Words are the ultimate standard of truth.

John 17:17 (ESV)

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

John 8:31-32 (ESV)
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
[14]

  • What about new facts that might contradict the Bible?

Historical or scientific study might reveal apparent contradictions, however we then need to re-examine Scripture to see if it really teaches what we thought it did. For example, the Bible does not teach that the Sun revolves around the earth, but speaks about our perspective of sunrise and sunset, simply a manner of speech as it is today still.

  • Inerrancy does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.

Romans 15:4 (ESV)

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.[15]

1.2.6 The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything which is contrary to fact.

Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Denying or doubting the inerrancy of Scripture makes Eph 5:1 difficult to obey. We can begin to wonder if we can really trust God in anything he says. We will lose objective truth and will tend to make our minds a higher standard. If we deny the inerrancy of Scripture, we could well also start denying some of the essential doctrines of the Bible.

  • THE CLARITY OF SCRIPTURE

Definition: The Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it.(Grudem)

Even the disciples misunderstood Jesus quite regularly. For example when He explained the dietary laws that God had in mind in the first place, Peter asked Him to please explain to which Jesus responded:

Matthew 15:16 (ESV)

16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?

Also when Jesus told His disciples about His trial and execution that lay ahead, we read this in:

Luke 18:34 (ESV)

34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Principles of interpretation have been developed over the years as trusted tools to unlock the meaning of Scripture. Some Scriptures are easy to understand like “Love your neighbour as yourself”.[16] Implementation might be difficult, but the meaning that Jesus had in mind was clear. But what about:

Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The meaning of this scripture in the context of Philippians 4 is actually “I can endure (and continue doing) all things through him who strengthens me”.

Hermeneutics is the study of the correct methods of interpretation. Exegesis is the process of interpreting a text of Scripture. The Bible remains the primary source—the whole Bible and the context of a particular scripture are of vital importance. We have a saying in the Precept Bible Study method that Context rules. We also made up our own saying that when you assume what a Scripture says without checking its context first, then the word “Assume”could mean making an ass out of “u” and me. Trustworthy Scholars and commentaries help a lot, but bear in mind that the Bible remains our primary source.

Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.[17]

  • THE NECESSITY OF SCRIPTURE

Definition: The Bible is necessary for knowledge of the Gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for certain knowledge of God’s will, but it is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character.” (Grudem)

  • The Bible is necessary for knowledge of the Gospel

Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 10:13-17 (ESV)

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

God has revealed Himself through General and Special revelation, but salvation comes through special revelation only.

  • The Bible is necessary for maintaining spiritual life

Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”[18]

1.4.3    The Bible is necessary for knowledge of God’s will

Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  • The Bible is not necessary to reveal Who God is.

Psalm 19:1-2 (ESV)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

  • Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.[19]

1.5   THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

Definition: Scripture contains all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us about salvation, for trusting him perfectly and for obeying him perfectly”. (Grudem)

2 Timothy 3:15 (ESV)

15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 119:9 (ESV)

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.[20]

Search the Bible for answers.Add nothing to Scripture. Do not regard any other guidance from God as equal to Scripture.Be content with what God has provided in His Word.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV)
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.[21]

  1. IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD? EXTERNAL EVIDENCE
  • UNIQUENESS OF THE BIBLE

Webster’s Dictionary defines “unique” as follows: “1. One and only; single; sole 2. Different from all others; having no like or equal.” Webster must have had the Bible in mind when he wrote this definition.[22]

  • Unique in its continuity

-Written over about a fifteen hundred year span;

-Written by more than 40 authors from every walk of life for example kings (Solomon), military leaders (Joshua), prophets (Samuel), musicians (David), herdsman (Amos), prime minister (Daniel), cupbearer (Nehemiah), physician (Luke), fishermen (Peter), Tax collector (Matthew), Rabbi (Paul)etc.

-Written in different places like the wilderness, a dungeon, a hillside, in a prison, in exile, while travelling etc.

-Written in different moods, on three different continents and in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

-Written in a wide variety of literary styles ranging from poetry to song to biography to law to parable etc.

-Written about hundreds of different controversial subjects and yet with remarkable harmony from Genesis to Revelation.

-Most importantly, the one leading character throughout is God Himself made manifest through Jesus Christ.  The Jesus Story Book Bible puts it beautifully in its subtitle“Every story whispers His name”.

“In the Old Testament, the Law (the first 5 books) provides the foundation for Christ, the historical books show the preparation for Christ, the poetical books aspire to Christ and the prophecies show an expectation of Christ. In the New Testament, the Gospels record the historical manifestation of Christ, the Acts relate the propagation of Christ, the Epistles give the interpretation of Christ and in Revelation is found the consummation of all things in Christ”.(Geisler/Nix p 29)

  • Unique in its circulation

According to the United Bible Societies’ 1998 Scripture distribution report, when Bibles, portions of the Bible and selections are taken into account, in 1998 alone 585 million copies or portions were distributed, and this by the United Bible Societies alone.[23]

In the history of the world, no other book has come even remotely close to this kind of constant circulation. This does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God, but it does make it quite unique.

  • Unique in its translation

The Bible was one of the first major books to be translated. Around 250 BC, the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek and given the name Septuagint. Currently, the Bible has been translated into more than 2 200 languages, representing more than 90 % of the world’s population. Although there are still about 4 300 languages left, Wycliffe Bible Translators alone has over 6 000 people working with more than 850 languages in 50 different countries. No other book in history comes close to comparing with the Bible in its translation.

  • Unique in its survival

Compared to other classical literature the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it than any ten pieces of classical literature combined.[24]

Jews were meticulous in preserving the old manuscripts and in transcribing these manuscrpits they had special classes of men (massorettes) who were required to keep tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph.[25]

-Unique in its survival through persecution

From the days of the Roman Empire and repeatedly throughout history the Bible has withstood vicious attacks as scores of rulers and people have tried to outlaw it, burn it, ban it etc. This is what Jesus said:

Mark 13:31 (ESV)

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Voltaire, the French Philosopher of the 1700’s predicted that 100 years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history. In an ironical twist of history and only 50 years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to start printing Bibles.                                 

  • Unique in its teachings

-With regard to prophecy, other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon and parts of the Hindu Veda, but none of these books contain predictive prophecy. We will deal with the significance of prophecy a bit later on in this lecture.[26]

-With regard to history, the table of nations spoken of in Genesis 10 are amazingly reliable and stand alone in ancient literature without even a remote parallel. 1st Samuel through to 2 Chronicles presents a remarkably accurate history spanning 5 centuries of the nation of Israel.

-With regard to character, Lewis S Chafer said: “The Bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he would”.[27]

The Bible deals frankly with the sins of its characters even when those sins reflect badly on the Nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. Consider for example David and Bathsheba and his efforts to cover this up (2 Sam 11-12), the sins of Israel (Deut 9:24), Peter’s denial of Christ (Mat 26:24, 75), the disorder within the church( 1 Cor 1:11, 2 Cor 2:4) etc. The Bible focuses on reality, not fantasy, presents the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the best and the worst, hope and despair, joy and pain.

  • Unique in its influence on Literature

No other book in human history has in turn inspired the writing of so many books as the Bible has.

“This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator and poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.” (Philip Schaff)[28]

  • Unique in its influence on civilization

“Civilization has been influenced more by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than by any other book or series of books in the world. The Bible presents the highest ideals known to men, ideals that have molded civilization.”[29]

All of the above does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God, but it does make it quite unique.

  • HISTORICAL ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE

 Christianity and Judaism are historical religions, which sets the Bible apart from the writings of all other religions. The most significant area of confirmation as to the historical accuracy of the Biblical account has come from the field of Archaeology. The renowned archaeologist William F Albright said: “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition.”[30]

Nelson Glueck adds, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery

has ever controverted a Biblical reference.”[31]

John 3:12 (ESV)

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

For example, Josh McDowell examines in detail various schools of Biblical Criticism which call into question the integrity, authenticity, credibility and literary forms of the various writings that make up the Bible. Under the overall heading of Higher Criticism, he explains the development of what is now known as The Documentary Hypothesis.[32]

Using literary criticism as its basis for argument, this hypothesis sets forth the theory that the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) was not written by Moses, as the Bible claims, but was completed years after Moses died. They teach that the Pentateuch was written almost 1000 years after Moses’ death and compiled by various editors and authors. On this assumption they formulated what they call the JEDP hypothesis. One of their many assumptions was that writing was virtually unknown in Israel during the time of Moses; consequently Moses could not have written the Pentateuch.

The British Assyriologist A. H. Sayce evaluates this theory and comments as follows: “This supposed late use of writing for literary purposes was merely an assumption, with nothing more solid to rest upon than the critic’s own theories and presuppositions. And as soon as it could be tested by solid fact it crumbled into dust. First Egyptology, then Assyriology, showed that the art of writing in the ancient East, so far from being of modern growth, was of vast antiquity, and that the two great powers which divided the civilized world between them were emphatically a nation of scribes and readers. Centuries before Abraham was born, Egypt and Babilonia were alike full of schools and libraries, of teachers and pupils, of poets and prose writers, and of literary works which they had composed.”[33]

  • THE CONFIRMATION OF PROPHECY

According to Deuteronomy 18:18-20 a prophet was to accurately pronounce the Word of the Lord, as any false or unfulfilled prophecy could lead to his death by stoning. Hundreds of prophecies, some given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled. The time (Dan 9), city (Mic 5:2), and nature (Isa 7:14) of Christ’s birth were foretold in the Old Testament as well as many other things about His life , death and resurrection.[34]

There are more than 300 references to the Messiah in the Old Testament. In his book, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell deals with 61 predictive prophecies in the Old Testament which were fulfilled in Christ, all of which were made more than 450 years to 1500 years before Christ. Taking into account the objection that fulfilled prophecy in Jesus could have been deliberately engineered by Him, for statistical probability purposes, McDowell uses only some of the prophecies concerning the Messiah that were totally beyond the control of Jesus. These are:

  1. Place of birth(Mic 5:2)
  2. Time of birth (Dan 9:25; Gen 49:10)
  3. Manner of birth (Isa 7:14)
  4. Betrayal (Ps 41:9)
  5. Manner of death (Ps 22:16)
  6. People’s reactions (mocking, spitting, staring etc)(Is 50:6; Ps 22:7,8)
  7. Piercing (Ps 22:16; Zech 12:10)
  8. Burial (Is 53:9)

Peter W Stoner in Science Speaks concludes as follows: “We find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the power of 17. That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000!”

Considering forty eight prophecies concerning Christ, Stoner reports: “We find that the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10 to the power of 157!

This is what it looks like: 1 in

100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00!!![35]

  • THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST HIMSELF

If Jesus is accepted as an actual historical figure, confirmed by Scripture and external trustworthy historical writings of the time, McDowell, in his striking chapter  titled Lord, Liar or Lunatic, quotes the famous saying by C S Lewis in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God”. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”[36]

Charles Wesley is quoted as saying: “The Bible must be the invention of either good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.

  1. It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither would or could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it saying “thus saith the Lord,” when it was their own invention.
  2. It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
  3. Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration”[37]

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,

4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

ANNEXURE A

THE BIBLE AND BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW

RECOMMENDED BOOKS AND AUTHORS—HARVEST LIBRARY

  1. Charles (Chuck) Colson—Burden Of Truth

Defending truth in an age of unbelief. Practical day to day examples of the clash between truth and lie—an excellent read with short practical examples and offers a recommended reading program.

  1. Nancy Pearcy—Total Truth

Liberating Christianity from its cultural captivity. Good and challenging book dealing with subjects like Biblical worldview—What’s in a  worldview?; Darwin meets the Berenstain Bears; The science of common sense.

  1. G K Chesterton—Orthodoxy

This is a jewel of a read. It’s a book that changed Phillip Yancey’s life, who wrote the introduction. The book is autobiographical and contains classic quotes like: “Charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all and faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all”

“Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy.”

“There is only one unanswerable argument against Christianity: Christians. They prove exclusively what the Bible teaches about the fall.”

  1. Josh McDowel—The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict

An excellent and comprehensive volume summarising and expanding on his first two Evidence That Demands a Verdict books published 20 years ago. It covers a wide variety of subjects ranging from the credibility of the Bible to evidence for the ressurrection to the criticism of the Documentary Hypotheses, the School of Higher Criticism and the Jesus Seminar. Especially striking is the introductory story of how God changed his sceptic heart when McDowel embarked on a journey to disprove the Bible. McDowell is living proof that no brokennes, no stubbornness, no past history, no other person can stop the flood of forgiveness that comes from surrendering your life to the Author of life, Jesus Christ. Mc Dowel is one of the most well read and well travelled Christian Apologists of our time.

  1. Wayne Grudem—Systematic Theology

An indispensible detailed handbook for any serious Biblical Scholar, well reasoned and sytematically able to build the kind of Biblical foundation needed to remain standing in our age of scepticism and criticism. This book is accepted as one of the most trusted resources of the Evangelical Church in the world today. Grudem holds with integrity to the Biblical text and this work is strongly recommended.

  1. R C Sproul—Choosing My Religion

This book teaches one how to think. It can be read by an enquirer and by a believer. Sproul deals a death blow to the merit of relative truth. A short, inspiring and worthwhile read

  1. Mark Mittelberg—The Reason Why

Faith makes sense. Mark Mittelberg has updated and expanded a book written by business leader, Robert A Laidlaw, 100 years ago called:”The Reason Why”. It helps to answer the questions: Is there a God? Can The Bible be trusted? Are you accountable to God? A short worthwhile read.

  1. Mark Mittelberg—The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask

In this book, based on the findings of a national survey, Mittelberg gives clear and solid answers that could build our confidence as believers when asked to give a reason for the hope that is in us.

  1. Timothy Keller—The Reason For God

In this New York Times top ten bestseller, Timothy Keller answers some vexing questions and offers a convincing Biblical and rational response. Some of the questions asked are: Why does a loving God allow people to go to hell? Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive? How can one religion be “right” and the others “wrong”? This is a challenging, intellectual book with some sharp insights. Highly recommended by Rick Warren from Saddleback.

  1. C S Lewis—Mere Christianity

This is one of the most popular and beloved introductions to the Christian faith ever written. It contains a collection of broadcast talks that Lewis presented during the 2nd World War and his aim was simply to “Explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times”. His chapter headings give a clue why this book remains relevant, despite being more than 50 years old: Right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe; What Christians believe; and Christian behaviour. A classic worth reading over and over.

  1. Ravi Zacharias—Beyond Opinion

Living the faith we defend. The book is endorsed by Dr Norman L Geisler as follows: “The best book of its kind in print.” This is a classical apologetic for apologetics and deals headon with difficult questions from a postmodern world about the Bible from challenges by atheism, young people, Islam etc. It also deals with the questions behind the questions, such as cultural and philosphical assumptions, real issues like the clash between good and evil.

  1. Francis Schaeffer—The God Who Is There

Dr Schaeffer was one of the most influential thinkers of his time and one of the fathers of modern defense (apologetics) of the Christian faith. He deals with timeless truths that underlie the increasing gulf between intellect and faith in the modern era. He deals convincingly with subjects like philosophy, art, music, theology and how they have had a profound influence on the world we live in.

  1. Lee Strobel—The Case For Faith

Strobel, a legally trained investigative reporter, examines all the evidence for and against the deity of Christ and convincingly comes to the verdict that Jesus is God’s unique Son. He deals with perrenial questions such as: If God is love, then what about all the suffering in the world?; If Jesus is the door to heaven, then what about the millions that have never heard about Him? He deals convincingly with the 8 heart barriers to faith.A book worth reading to build up faith. It can serve those who feel attracted to Christ, but still need to cross some intellectual barriers.

  1. Lee Strobel—The Case For A Creator

In an age of scepticism and generally accepted “faith” in evolution, Strobel presents a comprehensive defense of the fact that there is a Creator and that all of reality can be explained rationally and convincingly with creation as our premise. He tackles complicated scientific areas like cosmology, astronomy, biochemistry, biology etc. A book well worth recommending to sceptics and those stuck in the dilemma of how to reconcile creation with the popular and prevailing view of the origin of all things, evolution.

  1. Phillip E Johnson—Reason In The Balance

With a solid legal background, Phillip Johnson brings an enquiring and sharp mind to confront naturalism and its effects on all aspects and spheres of modern society. He presents much needed and vital arguments that arm believers to stand up for the truth in a reasonable manner. “Naturalism” is the idea that nature is “all there is” and underlies most natural science and intellectual works of our age.

  1. Norman L Geisler and William E Nix—A General Introduction To The Bible

If you want to read an easy to understand , trustworthy and yet comprehensive book about the Bible, then this would be the place to start. It addresses 4 major issues about the Bible: Who wrote it?(Inspiration) Which books belong in it? (Canonisation) Has it been accurately preserved? (Transmission)Has it been adequately translated? (Translation) In the introduction Josh McDowell refers to this book as “lifetime investment”.

Notes:

  1. 2 Cor. 1:20
  2. 1 Cor.6:19

[3] Invictus. The late Nelson Mandela famously quoted from the last stanza of a 19th century poem by English poet William Ernest Henley called Invictus:

“It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”

However noble it may sound, this is completely contrary to Scripture and to a large extent reflects the prevailing postmodern ideology.

[4] These were the current and projected world population stats for 2015 from the Pew Research Center:

2050— Christian—-from 2,1 billion to 2,9 billion (31,4%-31,4%) /  Muslim   —-from1,6 billion to 2,7 billion (23%-30%)

/ Unaffiliated-from 1.1billion to 1,2 billion (16,4%-13,2%) /  Hindus   —–from 1 billion to 1,4 billion (15%-14,9%)

/ Buddhists—–from ½ billion to ½ billion  (7,5%-5,2%)    /  Jews———14 million to 16 million  (0,2%-0,2 %)

[5] See the bibliography and suggested books in Annexure 1 at the end of these notes.

[6] Josh McDowell examines and discusses these critical schools of thought in several chapters of his work, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict—see Chapters 11-31.

[7] See also 1 Kings 9:36/ Zech 7:7/ Hag 1:12/ 1 Sam 15:3.

[8] See also Mat 21:42/ Mat 26:54-56/ John 7:38/ John 10:35 and Acts 3:18; 4:25/ Rom 1:2/ 1 Cor 9:8-10/ Heb1:1-2/ 1 Tim 5:18/ 2 Tim 3:16/ 2 Pet 3:21

[9] See also 2 Pet 3:2/ 1 Cor 2:13/ 1 Thes 4:15/ Rev 22:18-19

[10] See also John 14:26/ Acts 1:8

[11] Geisler and Nix argue that the objection is unfounded for several reasons: 1. Practically, there is no better place to begin with than with what is self-claimed. 2. Legally, a man can testify on his own behalf in a court of law. Why should not the Bible be permitted to witness in its own behalf? 3. Logically, the claim is not being used to support itself, but as a point of departure to study itself. (See p 49, Geisler and Nix, An Introduction To The Bible)

[12] See also Matt 10:19-20/ Mark 13:11/ John 10:27

[13] See also Psalm 12:6/ Ps 119:89/ Matt 24:35

[14] TRUTH is a person—Jesus Christ—the Word of God. (John 1:1 + 17,John 14:6 and Hebrews 1:1-2). TRUTH is the written Word of God (John 17:17 and 2 Tim 3:16). TRUTH has a Helper(John 14:16-17, John 16:13)

[15] See also 2 Tim 3:16/ Acts 24:14/ Luke 24:25

[16] Matt 22:39

[17] See the magnificent charge by Paul in Eph 1:3-14, which comprises one long sentence in the original Greek.

[18] Jesus was quoting from Deut 8:3.

[19] Also see Romans 1 and Hebrews 1.

[20] See also 2 Tim 3:17/ 1 John 1:8-10

[21] See also Psalm 1

[22] Professor M Montiero-Williams, after spending 42 years studying Eastern books, compared them with the Bible and said : “ Pile them if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side-all by itself, all alone-and with a wide gap between them. For….there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever…a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought”(McDowell p 4)

[23] McDowell p 8.

[24] See p 38 McDowell.

[25] In The Greatest Book in the World, John Lea compares the Bible with Shakespeare and comments: “It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and eighty years , should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries old.” (Quoted by McDowell on P 9)

[26] See page 29.

[27] Quoted by McDowell on p 13.

[28] Philip Schaff, The Person Of Christ, quoted by McDowell on p 15)

[29] Geisler and Nix p 197.

[30] William F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p 176.

[31] Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev, p 31.

[32] See p 391 and onward.

[33] Quoted by McDowell on p 431.

[34] See Isa 53.

[35] Quoted by McDowell on p 193-194.

[36] Quoted by McDowell on p 157.

[37] Quoted by Geisler and Nix on p 199.

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