Editorial

The Bible


Attacks on the Bible

The Bible has long suffered the disparaging attacks of men. However, in times past the enemies of God's word were at least easily identifiable. More and more as of late men who claim to be friends of our Lord are casting aspersions upon the Bible. While they profess a love for the Lord, they disingenuously deny the miracles of the Bible, many of the recorded actions and words of Jesus, and the inspiration of His written legacy to us.

An example of this is the Jesus Seminar; a group of liberal, modernistic theologians who, in effect, sit around a table and vote on what words and actions of our Lord, recorded in the gospels, are actually genuine. Predictably, they deny the veracity of recorded miracles, as well as any judgmental language, seeing fit only to accept the gentle and loving side of Jesus nature. In doing so, they seek to remake Jesus in their own image, and do violence to the historical Jesus revealed in the inspired Word.

Contrast this denial of inspiration and general loose attitudes toward the Bible with the words of Jesus and his followers. Jesus promised the disciples in John 14:26, "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 things that I said to you." Concerning these "things" delivered by the Holy Spirit, Paul said to the Thessalonians, "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Further, the Apostle Peter asserts, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).

To make the claim that the Bible is the work of man is to call Peter, Paul, even the Lord liars. Either liars, or deluded, or superstitious, or some other unacceptable contention. This is something you might would expect from the enemies of the cross, but it is unconscionable that those who profess a friendship with Christ would make such contentions.

Another attack on God's word has come in the form of certain modern day, English translations of the Bible. The American Bible Society recently released their Contemporary English Bible, which they trumpet as, "the eternal truths of God's Word in clear, understandable English" (ABS Advertisement). In reality it is a blasphemous attack against the Bible. Imagine the thousands of people who will be buying into this perversion of the gospel of Christ, all the while thinking they are getting a faithful, accurate translation of the original languages. Satan is working rabidly to bring harm to those God would save!

Let the American Bible Society, the Jesus Seminar, and the other enemies of the cross rail against the Bible. When all of their "hammering" is done, and all their "hammers" are strewn over the ground, the eternal and steadfast anvil that is God's word will remain unscathed. As Paul said, in Romans 3:3-4, "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar..."

The Bible, Product of Providence!

As mentioned above, modern day attacks on the Word of God are prevelant. Many individuals who claim to be followers of Christ have rejected the Bible as inspired Scripture. It is fashionable in our day to claim this great work as merely the words of men.

We mentioned Paul's proclamation in Romans 3, "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar..." It should not surprise us that many would serve as minions of Satan and attack the inspiration of God's word. It also should not overly concern us! Their lack of faith does not change the fact that God revealed Himself to us!

The Bible claims inspiration for itself. Both Old Testament scripture and the New Testament writings are included in this claim. For example, Paul in referring to the Old Testament canon, said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). In recognizing the inspiration of Old Testament writings, Paul claimed the same for his own writings. He told the Corinthians in I Corinthians 14:37, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." A careful study of the New Testament reveals that the letters written by the Apostles were received by the first century Christians as inspired. "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (I Thessalonians 2:13).

This last scripture is, I believe, very significant. Paul very clearly ties our final salvation in with faith in God's word. The fashionable rejection of Bible inspiration is not without consequence. It "effectively works" only in those who are willing to accept that it is, in truth, "the word of God." It is easy to set aside the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality, adultery and drunkenness; to disregard the Book's instructions regarding the place of the woman in the home, the raising of children, and the benevolence due one another; to reject as outdated it's instructions regarding church work, worship and structure; when one looks at the writings of Paul, Peter, John and the others are merely the words of men.

When it is the Holy Spirit that says those who practice sin "will not inherit the kingdom of God." (cf. Gal. 5:21); or that "...I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12); or that we are to "speak (-ing) to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart ot the Lord." (cf. Eph. 5:19); it is much more difficult to disregard the instructions.

These modern day enemies of the Bible show their hypocrisy in claiming their adoration of men such as Peter, Paul and John and at the same time rejecting their claims of inspiration. As Neil Lightfoot put it in his fine volume, How We Got the Bible, "It is assumed, however, that the men who wrote the Bible were honest men and were of a sound mind. If they were sane and sound-minded, they would not be susceptible to fanciful visions and hallucinations; if they were honest, they would not intentionally deceive" (pg. 119).

Uplifted By Inspiration

So, to receive Christ necessitates a belief and acceptance of the Bible as "it is in truth, the word of God."

There are many compelling arguments which contend it was given us by inspiration. In effect, the words are from God, not men.

One very interesting line of reasoning deals with the influence of the Bible over world culture. Though it may not be the most technical of arguments, it is nevertheless strong, and compelling.

Batsell Barrett Baxter, in his book I Believe Because..., states this argument very clearly. Note this paragraph from page 175 of his book.

We are living in a time of great unrest, despair, and ungodliness. Men have truly forgotten God, and rejected his missives. If they would only begin to apply the principles of love for God and neighbor, the decay of our civilization would reverse.

When God's principles, as revealed in Scripture are followed, society always prospers. Now, I realize that much harm has been done "in the name of religion". Wars, the abuses of the Catholic church, and the sectarian divisions that exist are good examples of this. More recently, the abuse of women, and the bombing of abortion clinics have been in the news as well. But all of these evil things have come from a distortion of what is true, not from the will of God as revealed in the Bible text.

James asked the question, "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh" (James 3:12). The point is simple. Whenever the principles of morality and law as found in the Bible are followed, society is uplifted. The fruits borne by an application of the Word reveal its origin. As Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:16). The Bible is known as the Word of God because of the influence it has on humankind. In fact, its influence shows it could only have come from God Himself.

As Baxter states on pages 175-176 of his book, "...the influence of the Scriptures is of such a nature that it can indicate only that the source from which this influence came was good. If the Bible had been a great hoax or deception, it could not have had the influence toward the uplifting of civilization that it has had...(this is why) I believe the Bible to be a book uniquely given by God."

Outward Evidences of Inspiration

The Bible claims inspiration for itself. Paul proclaimed in his second letter to Timothy, "All Scripture {is} given by inspiration of God, and {is} profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (3:16-17).

One of the reasons we can have confidence in this assertion is that the Bible is continually validated both historically and geographically by archaeological discoveries. I thought it would be interesting to share a few of these with you. All quotations will be taken from a book entitled The New Testament Documents - Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce.

The Middle Wall of Division

Scripture reveals that Gentiles were not allowed to enter beyond the outer court of the temple, as they were considered unclean. You may recall that Luke records a near riot which ensued when the Jews were under the impression that Paul had taken Gentiles into the inner areas of the temple, (Acts 21:27-ff). Apparently, the Roman authorities, in an attempt to curry the favor of the Jews in Jerusalem, had warnings posted in both Greek and Latin, warning the Gentiles not to pass beyond the outer court. As Bruce states, "One of these Greek inscriptions, found at Jerusalem in 1871 by C.S. Clermont-Ganneau, is now housed in Istanbul, and reads as follows: 'No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to thank for his ensuing death'" (pg. 93). This helps to shine a light of understanding upon Paul's statement, penned in Ephesians 2:14, "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division {between us}."

The Pool of Bethesda

The pool of Bethesda is mentioned in an account of one of Jesus' healings, in John 5. Take the time to read verses 2 and following, and compare closely with this passage from Bruce's book:

"The pool of Bethesda, described in John 5:2, has been located in the north-east quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, the quarter which was called Bezetha, or 'New Town' in the first century AD. In 1888 excavations near St. Anne's Church, in that quarter, revealed the remains of an ancient church building. Beneath this lay a crypt, with its north wall divided into five compartments in imitation of arches; on this wall there could also be distinguished traces of an old fresco representing the angel troubling the water. Clearly those who built this structure believed that it marked the site of the pool of Bethesda. And subsequent excavations below the crypt showed that they were right; a flight of steps was uncovered leading down to a pool with five shallow porticoes on its north side, directly underneath the five imitation arches on the north wall of the crypt. There are few sites in Jerusalem, mentioned in the Gospels, which can be identified so confidently" (pg. 94).

Zeus and Hermes

In Acts 14:11-12, Luke records, "Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian {language}, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker." Interestingly, archaeological discoveries have lent credence to this account, revealing that the Lystra area commonly worshiped these two pagan deities. The following Bruce quote is revealing: "But more precise evidence of the joint worship of these two deities in the vicinity of Lystra was found in 1910, when Sir William Calder discovered an inscription of c. AD 250 at Sedasa near Lystra, recording the dedication to Zeus of a statue of Hermes along with a sundial by men with Lycaonian names, and again in 1926, when the same scholar, along with Professor W.H. Buckler, discovered a stone altar near Lystra dedicated to the 'Hearer of Prayer' (presumably Zeus) and Hermes."

These are just a few, relatively minor examples of archaeological discoveries which confirm the veracity of God's word. Many others could be cited, but these suffice to show that the New Testament is an accurate historical and geographical document. There is no documented inconsistency or mistake to be found anywhere in the New Testament. There are many today who assault the word of God, claiming it to be the work of fallible men. Their feeble attempts fall uselessly upon the anvil of truth. Our faith is based upon unassailable evidence. The Bible is the inspired word of God!

We Have the Words of God

Some are willing to concede the inspiration of the original manuscripts of scripture. They will say, "I believe that God inspired the writing of Paul when he penned his letters, BUT we don't have the original manuscripts! Therefore there is no way we could have the actual, original message in an unadulterated state!" Is this true? I believe it is not.

First, logic demands the intervening hand of God's providence. It stands to reason that if God revealed Himself to man, He would have a hand in the preservation of that will. We have touched on this previously.

Second, Jesus and his disciples labored under the same type of circumstances as we do with regard to copies and translations of the scriptures. And yet on numerous occasions our Lord quoted Old Testament, Hebrew scripture from a Greek translation, the Septuagint. And did so authoritatively, thus affirming that these were the words of God. One example is found in Matthew 15:7-9, where Jesus said to the Pharisees and Scribes, "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "

Finally, to say that because there are no known existing original letters there can be no surety of the inspired message is to ignore the abundance of copies of these manuscripts that exist. Any student of textual criticism knows that the Bible is the most well documented of all ancient books. There are literally thousands of copies, some complete, some partial, of scripture. There are quotations that can be gleaned from the "church fathers". Some of these copies of the scripture are very ancient. And, any mistakes that might have been made by a particular copyist on any particular copy can be winnowed out with very little difficulty by the volume, as well as the quality, of the remainder of witnesses.

As new discoveries are made, they bear out the accuracy of the text we have received. One example of such a discovery I relay to you in a quote from Neil Lightfoot's book, How We Got the Bible:

This is just one small, but telling example of many that could be offered. It is not our intention here to explain the intricacies of textual criticism. However, the three points made are sufficient to give us confidence in the Bible text as we have it today. What we have, in truth, is the Word of God!

The Canon of Scripture and the Apocrypha

The phrase "canon of scripture" refers to the books of the Bible commonly accepted as inspired of God, and thereby authoritative as expressions of His will. As Neil Lightfoot put it, in his book How We Got the Bible...

Most people do not understand how the canon of scripture was set. Let it be understood that the books of the Bible are received as canonical based upon the authority inherent within them as inspired messages from God. They do not receive their canonicity by the decree of the Catholic church, as is erroneously believed by many.

An illustration helps here. A child confidently identifies his mother by recognizing certain characteristics that set her apart. However, this identification does not make her his mother. If he were to mistakenly identify another, or fail to identify her, it does not invalidate the fact that she is his mother. The same is true with our Bible.

God set the canon of scripture. Old Testament Scripture was recognized in the time of Jesus to consist of the same 39 books we have in our Old Testaments. The historian Josephus records in his writings that the books Jews received as "Scripture" were the same as we have in our Bibles today. Additionally, the Gospels, and writings of the apostles were received as having divine authority. As Paul instructed in I Corinthians 14:37, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." It was a gradual process, but as the New Testament writings were shared and spread among the churches, they became universally recognized as inspired and authoritative. As Lightfoot states, "The books of the bible possess their own authority and indeed had this authority long before there were any councils of the church. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church completely ignore this important point" (pg. 82).

There are certain other writings, called the Apocrypha, that the Catholic church regards as canonical as well. The greek word apocrypha literally means secretive or concealed, and originally referred to a book whose origin was doubtful or unknown. In April of 1546, the Catholic church decreed that 12 of these apocryphal books were canonical, and authoritative.

The list of apocryphal books accepted as canonical by the Roman Catholic Church:

  1. Tobit
  2. Judith
  3. The Additions to the Book of Esther
  4. The Wisdom of Solomon
  5. Ecclesiasticus
  6. Baruch
  7. The Letter of Jeremiah
  8. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men
  9. Susanna
  10. Bel and the Dragon
  11. 1 Maccabees
  12. 2 Maccabees

These twelve books were written in the period between the close of the Old Testament (Malachi), and the earliest New Testament writings. They are vastly inferior works, and save for 1 Maccabees, which is a fairly accurate historical work covering Jewish history in the second century B.C., they have little value. It must be understood that a dictatorial decree by an Apostate church does not confer upon these books any canonicity, and that they were universally rejected from the canon by early Jewish and Christian writers. Additionally, although Jesus and his disciples liberally quoted from Old Testament books, and referred to events which were recorded in them, they nowhere quote from the Apocrypha as scripture.

Again, as we place our confidence in the Bible we have received as the inspired Word of God, we call upon logic to bolster our faith. As Christians we are confident that the same God who has determined to reveal Himself to us will providentially guide the hands of men to keep that will pure and complete. The Bible is whole, unadulterated, and the authoritative Word of God!


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