Barriers: The Authenticity of the Bible
Starting with the problem – Bible facts
The Bible is a collection of 66 documents written by approximately 40 authors over 1,500 years in 3 languages. The authors come from wide-ranging educational and cultural backgrounds and wrote from a variety of locations on 3 continents.
- Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
- Peter was a fisherman. Paul was a rabbi and scholar. Daniel was a prime minister. Asaph was a musician. Matthew was a tax collector. David was a shepherd, then a king. Luke was a historian and medical doctor.
- Africa, Asia and Europe
- For example, Paul wrote four letters imprisoned in Rome. The apostle John, wrote while a prisoner banished to the Isle of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. The prophet Ezekiel wrote his work while held captive in Babylon.
Forty different people (spread out over fifteen centuries, on three different continents, who speak three different languages) and having them write sixty-six different documents regarding life’s most controversial questions—I’m thinking we are going to have some serious problems. That book is a going to be a confusing and difficult read!
Yet, in spite of all these factors, in my opinion, the Bible is a perfectly harmonious, consistent account of how God is seeking to reconcile sinners like you and me back into relationship with to Himself.
Q: Not sure if I believe in the bible
A: That’s why they call it faith.
A: It says in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” You gain faith in the bible by reading the bible?
Sam Harris, a popular atheist writer and speaker says,
“Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else… Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for all eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”
I’m not sure who Sam has been talking to but that definitely was not my reality. I thought there has to be a better answer. – What would a reasonably minded, outside observer say of the Bible?
- Bible is outdated, irrelevant, and mythological.
- It’s not historically legitimate.
- It’s changed throughout history and is untrustworthy.
Has the Bible been changed?
What about the contradictions and mistakes?
Is the bible historically reliable and/or trustworthy?
Has the Bible been changed?
Many people believe the bible has been mishandled and that its original message and content has been changed, lost, and manipulated. But secular historians who study ancient manuscripts tell us the Bible is actually one of the most, if not the most, reliable and credible documents from antiquity.
- Two copies of the same manuscript 500 years apart and from different geographical regions are virtually identical.
- Scribes, one writing, two watching – signature in the margin for corrections
Secondary verification that we have accurate copies of the Bible
- Church fathers and leaders of the church in the first three centuries AD
- Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Tertullian, Polycarp
- Their writings and correspondence with one another, and in their letters to different churches, quote the Old and New Testament over and over again.
- NT more than 86,000 times
- Their writings survive to this day! You can go to Amazon.com right now and buy an encyclopedic size set of the writings of the church fathers and see with your own eyes their numerous quotations of both the Old and New Testaments.
- There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single manuscript copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct most of the New Testament today just from their writings.
- Isaiah 40:8says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
- Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
We can be confident that the bible hasn’t changed over the years. The version we are using today was translated directly from manuscripts nearly identical to what original audiences used.
What about the contradictions and mistakes?
Bart Ehrman – “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”
- 400,000 errors in the Bible
- Usually small variations between manuscripts – words spelled differently
- Savior vs. Saviour
- One spelling difference is not one problem but rather, because there is 150 different manuscripts = 150 errors by his logic
- His book – 16 typos – 100,000 copies printed – 1.6 million errors
- He is correct in saying there are two disputed passages
- Mark 16:9-20 & John 7:53 – 8:11
- “The earliest manuscripts do not include this passage.”
The purported mistakes is similar to what we just discussed in the fact that the bible has not changed over the years. We are all able to find places where there are minor textual alterations but nothing the rises to the place of changing meaning or idea.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells stories and parables. Often the same story is told in different gospels but on the surface, it appears they can’t seem to get their story straight.
- One gospel writer says one thing, the other says another. They are emphasizing different points or using different versions of the same story.
- Pastors – telling the same story in multiple sermons – emphasize different parts depending on the audience
- Jesus told the same parables in multiple
- Job interview vs. first date – “Tell me about yourself.”
People often manufacture doubt by imposing a standard on the Bible that they don’t impose on their own communication
- I don’t require that every time a person tells a story or a life incident that they do so in exactly the same way as past times.
- Just because there are slight variations in my story does not immediately mean any part of it is untrue.
Example: Judah’s Death
- The disciple of Jesus that betrayed him died, but how?
- Matthew 27:5 says, “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”
- Acts 1:18 says, “Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines.”
- If we look contextually we see that these passages are not contradictory but rather complimentary.
- The story in Acts is simply filling in later details. Judas hung himself and eventually someone cut him down or the rope broke, and he fell to the ground and his bowels spilled out.
- Acts doesn’t say or imply that Judas didn’t hang himself.
Example: Angels at the resurrection
- Matt 28:5 says, “Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
- John 20:12 says, “She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.
- You think you would remember a detail like how many angels.
- Let me tell you a secret, where there is two, there is always one.
- Matthew’s account simply tells us that one particular angel spoke to Mary. John is reporting how many angels were actually there.
- Me telling stories, “The other day…”
- Lori, “That was three years ago.”
We can’t allow minor changes in detail or emphasis between authors shipwreck our faith in a document that has obvious consistency throughout.
Is the bible historically reliable and/or trustworthy?
Historical Trust: Manuscripts and Content
- As we discussed earlier, number of copies of ancient manuscripts matter. The more copies, the better.
- Time of writing from events described also matters.
- Thucydides wrote about Greco-Roman culture.
- Believed by historians and scholars as definitive and accurate.
- 8 copies with the earliest transcribed 1,300 years after the events
- Aristotle’s Poetics
- 5 copies that are 1,400 years after the originals
- Caesar’s Gallic Wars
- Just a few manuscripts from 1,000 years after his death
- Two ancient biographies of Alexander the Great.
- Both are trusted as historically accurate
- Earliest written 400 years after Alexander died.
- New Testament
- 25,000 copies of NT documents in existence
- First gospel (Mark) written about 40 years after Jesus’ death
- Some of Paul’s letters 15-20 years after the life of Jesus’
- Sir Frederick G. Kenyon – former director of the British Museum
- In no other case is the interval of time between composition of the book and the date of earliest surviving manuscripts so short as that in the New Testament.
The New Testament being written this close to the life of Jesus adds credence to their trustworthiness.
- If I wrote an article claiming that in 1991 Canada invaded America with 100,000 troops, people who were around would be able to say, “I was there and that didn’t happen.”
- The Apostle Paul argues for the historical basis for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead by saying in 1 Corinthians 15:6, “After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers[a]at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.”
- He is saying, “If you have doubts, go find one who saw him, they are still around.”
- These letters and writings couldn’t afford inaccuracies as many people who were part of the story were still alive and could either verify or refute what was being said.
- Non-believers would have been happy to expose lies.
- The NT was written in the lifetime of the eyewitnesses.
- 2000 pigs running off a cliff
- 5,000 people eating from a couple fish and some loaves of bread
- Roman leader’s daughter being brought back from the dead
- These were public events in small towns that would never have gained an audience in written form if they hadn’t happened.
- Another thing that Gospel writers do is very unique, they put people’s names into their accounts.
- Mark 15:21 – Simon of Cyrene carried the cross – he is the father of Alexander and Rufus.
- This happens throughout the NT. The expectation is that the people can go ask the individuals who are named and verify.
This has been a quick flyover of some of the rebuttals to skeptics challenges about the reliability of the Bible but there are so many more. The natural sciences, archeology, astronomy, history. They all help bring assurance that the bible is trustworthy.
Once I saw all of this truth, I was convinced that I could rely on the Bible to guide my life. The thing that moved me from having faith in the Bible to realizing it would take more faith to not believe in it I call “The Irrefutable Path”. For me this changed everything about my faith.
The Irrefutable Path
Step One: The Disciples
Extrabiblical sources: There are dozens of writings that survive outside of the Bible (in the records of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans) that verify the historical accuracy of the Bible’s records of different persons, places, and events.
As far as persons are concerned, external sources verify that more than 50 persons mentioned in the Old Testament and 30 persons written about in the New Testament were actual historical figures.
Because of engravings and statues, we even know what 18 of them looked like (12 from the Old Testament and 6 from the New Testament)!
We learn from these writings that due to their faith in Christ:
- Matthew was slain with an axe in a city of Ethiopia
- Mark died in Alexandria, in Northern Egypt after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
- Luke was hung to death in Greece
- John was tortured and then banished to the island of Patmos ( 1:9)
- James, the brother of John, was beheaded in Jerusalem (seeActs 12:2)
- James the Less (as he’s called inMark 15:40) was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple and then stoned
- Philip was hung up against a pillar in Heiropolis and then stoned
- Bartholomew was flayed alive
- Andrew was bound to a cross and left to die
- Jude was shot to death with arrows
- Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace Judas) was first stoned, and then beheaded
- Barnabas was stoned to death
- Paul, after a variety of tortures and imprisonments, was beheaded in Rome
- Thomas was run through the body with a spear in southeast India
- Peter was crucified upside down in Rome
Step Two: Jesus
Disciples all pointed to Jesus. They believed throughout their lives and the deaths that he died and raised to life again for the forgiveness of our sins and so that we may have eternal life though him.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive…” (Antiquities of the Jews, 18:63-64, from a surviving manuscript in Arabic)
Step Three: The Bible
Jesus said that he was the Son of God and had the ability to forgive sins. He told people that he would die but rise again after three days. As it relates to our discussion this morning, Jesus put his faith in scriptures.
- He knew the scriptures thoroughly, even verb tenses. Obviously had large portions memorized and quoted it regularly. (John 7;15)
- He believed in the prophesies of the OT concerning himself. (Matt 26:53-56, Lk 24:25-27, John 5:39-47)
- He believed the OT was historical fact and spoken by God himself by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration even though it was written by men. (Matt 19:4-5)
- He believed Scripture was more powerful than his miracles.
- Luke 16:29,31
- “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
- “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The Irrefutable Path: Disciples > Jesus > Bible
1 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.