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The Bible Is Reliable

Various   |   Shaun LePage   |   September 14, 2008


The Bible Is Reliable

Various   |   Shaun LePage   |   September 14, 2008

I.       Introduction:

A.    Gifts from the Holy Land—reminders God’s Word; Honey (Ps 119:103), Lamp (light; Ps 119:105); DSS jar reminds me of God’s preservation of His Word—our subject for today. Before we dive into this chart/outline, find the back of your outline which has this header: Theological Foundations.

B.    Theological Foundations (back of handout)

1.         God is able to speak and be understood. His creation tells us He created with purpose, so it follows that He would want to communicate His purpose for creating us. Scripture agrees: Mt 19:26: “…with God all things are possible.” (at least 4X and many other similar statements such as “Nothing is too difficult for You” (3X)

2.         God has spoken: Hebrews 1:1-3, John 1:18 and 2 Peter 1:20-21

3.         God can and will preserve what He has said: 1 Peter 1:22-25—it is “imperishable…enduring… forever”; We must be diligent and careful, but we can trust that God will/has preserved His Word for us.

C.    This is not simplistic (which will become apparent today), but it is simple: Since God is capable of preserving what He has said and has promised to preserve what He has said—He will preserve it for us. He has preserved it for us.

II.     Review

A.    2 weeks ago: What is Truth? We can know truth with reasonable certainty

B.    Last week: Can We Trust the Bible?

1.         Overview of reasons why we can trust the Bible:

a)     Copies are reliable, it is unique, supposed “problems” (e.g., science, ethics, apparent errors) have reasonable responses.

b)     Conclusion: The Bible can be trusted and the implications are enormous—especially when you examine the claims of Christ. We have reasonable certainty that Jesus is God and He is the only way to God. Receive the gift of eternal life by faith.

c)     Key point: Keep implications in mind—the reason why this series is not just academic.

2.         Return to four specific areas of this overview:

a)     The Bible is Reliable (today, maybe 2 weeks)—reasons why our copies can be trusted.

b)     Closer look at these so-called “problems” which some say undercut the Bible’s authority.

c)     Closer look at two of these so-called “problems”: Interpretation and Canonicity.

III.   I want to again acknowledge the work of Ken Boa and Larry Moody—this outline was adapted from their book called I’m Glad You Asked. I encourage you to read the entire book.


 

THE BIBLE IS RELIABLE(Expansion of 3 Tests answer to False Impression #1—“Documents aren’t reliable”)
The Bibliographic Test: Examines transmission of the Bible from the original writings to the present day.
Description of how the Bible spread: The OT was the treasure of one people, one language—in-house effort to write it and preserve it. Almost easy!The NT was a treasure for the world. Persecution and missionary journeys required teaching of apostles to be written down, then copied. Until 15th century everything was written by hand (illus: mother who gave handwritten copies of the Bible to children at graduations).
The Quantity of Manuscripts(i.e., ancient copies of the Bible; originals called “autographs”—we have no “autographs”)1. Old Testament (OT)  a. Standardized by Masoretic Jews in 6th century A.D.; all manuscripts which deviated were destroyed. Called “The Masoretic Tradition”.  b. Existing manuscripts are supplemented by:     1) Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS; 1947 discovery of 400 books from 200 B.C.)     2) Septuagint (3rd century Greek translation of the OT for Jews who no longer knew Hebrew).     3) Samaritan Pentateuch (medieval copy of “Moses” which Samaritans believed was only true Scripture)     4) Targums (oldest found with DSS; translations of OT in Aramaic)     5) Talmud (400-600 A.D.; teaching and commentary about OT; contained most/all of Torah/Law)2. New Testament (NT)  a. Over 5,000 Greek manuscripts (earliest 125 A.D.)  b. About 8,000 Latin manuscripts  c. Another 1,000 manuscripts in other languages  d. Tens of thousands of citations by Church Fathers  e. Unparalleled in writings of Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, Tacitus—range from 1 to 20 manuscripts
The Quality of Manuscripts1. Old Testament (OT): Millar Burrows: “It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration… Herein lies its (DSS) chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition’” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 304).2. New Testament (NT):   a. With so many copies, there are—of course—thousands of variations. 99.5% of these are typos or meaningless word order differences (e.g., misspelling a word or switching “Jesus Christ” with “Christ Jesus”)  b. The meaning of the text in the remaining .5% (less than one page of the NT) is in doubt (e.g., John 7:53-8:11). But, no doctrine of the NT is affected by these passages.   c. Sir Frederic G. Kenyon (British Museum) “…Any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.” (The Bible and Archaeology, p.288)
The Time Span of Manuscripts1. The oldest OT documents—the DSS—date back to 200 B.C.2. The oldest NT documents (most copied less than 200 years after written)  a. Rylands fragment of John (P52)—A.D. 117-38  b. Bodmer Papyri (P66-72)—A.D. 175-225 (4 complete NT books)  c. Beatty Papyri (P45-47)—A.D. 200-250 (portions/all of 15 NT books)
2 Reasons this displays God’s miraculous wisdom: 1. The explosion of copies made it impossible for one man or group to gather up all the copies, destroy them and make changes. Whenever someone tried to make changes, they were isolated.2. The vast number of copies has demonstrated that variations don’t go away—they got copied over and over. This gives us assurance that the original words can be discovered—they too were correctly copied over and over. Through comparison of all the copies we can know with reasonable certainty what the original words were and what changes have been made over time.
§              Major assumption in all this: Older is better—closer to originals. Most modern scholars say: All ancient copies should be considered in determining what the originals said. §              King James Only advocates (broad brush) disagree. Let me briefly explain this because it is becoming more and more common [ See Map ] Three areas or “families” of documents: Western, Alexandrian (oldest) and Byzantine (~90% resulting in “Majority Text”). Greek behind KJV is “Textus Receptus” (Received Text) which was built from 6 Greek copies (incomplete!). Basic contention: Majority is better—God preserved this way.§              Modern translations are based on more and more manuscripts (as they are discovered) and on better and better scholarship (as our understanding of Koine Greek improves with the discovery of other ancient Greek documents—letters, legal documents, etc.). §              Bottom line (irony): No significant differences exist between these families. Discoveries are only confirming what we have and removing areas of uncertainty. TR/KJV only people limit the record God has preserved for us.§              (Suggested Reading: The King James Only Controversy by James White and The Facts on the King James Only Debate by John Ankerberg and John Weldon)
Again, we know what the originals said. And, none of the variations in the copies affects any doctrine of the New Testament.
The Internal Test: Examines claims the Bible makes about itself—allowing the authors of the Bible to speak for themselves.
Emphasis on Eyewitness Accounts1. The Apostle John:   a. John 19:35 and 21:24  b. 1 John 1:1-32. The Apostle Peter  a. Acts 2:32  b. 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:163. More than 500: 1 Corinthians 15:6   Stress on Historical Accuracy1. Historical: Luke 1:1-42. Accuracy: 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Revelation 22:18-19 (3 other times)  Short Time Frame Means No Myth1. The entire NT was written before the end of the first century.2. Most of the NT was written between A.D. 47 and 70.3. The short time frame in which the NT was written does not allow for the “myth” theory—that stories and miracles told about Jesus are just myths.4. Those who wanted to check the authenticity of the NT could literally speak with many  eyewitnesses who were still alive at the time of writing (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:6 “remain until now”).Illustration: Charles Darwin supposedly became a Christian on his deathbed—still hear this. Eyewitnesses dispelled this myth!
The External Test: Examines events, dates and persons in Scripture, checking accuracy against non-biblical sources.
Ancient Historians1. Flavius Josephus (1st Century Jewish Historian): Refers to Jesus, John the Baptist and James and provides background to the Herods, high priests and emperors mentioned in Gospels and Acts.2. Mara Bar-Serapion (Syrian Prisoner): Wrote a letter shortly after A.D. 73 to his son; compares deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras and Christ3. Other 1st and 2nd century writers who mention Christ  a. Cornelius Tacitus in Annals  b. Suetonius in Life of Claudius, Lives of the Caesars  c. Pliny the Younger in Epistles  d. Lucian in On the Death of Peregrine
Archeology1. Archeology has provided external confirmation of hundreds of statements related to nations, kings, cities, treaties, customs, dates, etc. 2. 19th century critics made many damaging claims seeking to disprove the Bible, but an explosion of archeological knowledge in the 20th century has reversed nearly every one of these claims. Examples:  a. Critics said Moses could not have written Mosaic Law because writing was unknown at that time and the law code was too sophisticated for that period. But, archeologists discovered the Laws of Hammurabi (1700 B.C.) and Lipit-Ishtar code (1860 B.C.) and others.  b. Critics said Luke 2:1-3 was false—there was no census, no governor Quirinius at that time and everyone did not have to return to ancestral home. But, archeology has shown all aspects of this criticism to be false.   c. Nelson Glueck (archeology pioneer who discovered 1500 ancient sites): “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference (Rivers in the Desert, p.31)  d. William F. Albright (founder of the Biblical archaeology movement): “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.” (The Archaeology of Palestine, pp. 127-128)
Conclusions1. The Bible is a reliable document of historical fact. 2. Since the Bible is accurate and trustworthy, its message about Jesus is true—the most important fact of history. Believe John 14:6!
Suggested Reading: Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowellbible.org, topic “Canon”probe.org/Reasons to Believe/Are the Biblical Documents Reliable?
The Anvil
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime:
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, and then with twinkling eyes,
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."
And so, thought I, the anvil of God's word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed . . . the hammers are gone.
—John Clifford

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