Can We Trust The Bible?

When I was little I remember my grandmother teaching my cousins and me a game called “Telephone.” Someone comes up with a sentence and whispers it into the ear of the person next to them. This continues being passed through several silly, giggling child-interpreters until it reaches the original person. Everyone gets a huge laugh because what started as “The gray goose flies at night,” turns into “My granny has an overbite.”

Tweet: People struggle with the Bible because they believe it was passed down like a game of Telephone. The truth is far more stunning!

“The Bible can’t be trusted. It was copied by hand so many times that it must be full of mistakes. After thousands of years of errors we simply can’t trust what’s there!” The problem with this argument is the assumption that the Bible was copied much like you or I would scribble notes during a lecture, which is simply untrue.

Ancient scribes dedicated their lives to copying the Bible by hand, letter for letter, word for word, line for line. And this is very important to understand. Men who dedicated themselves to this artform had the scriptures memorized, as well as having a multitude of very early copies from which to work. Over 24,000 of these ancient copies remain from the New Testament alone, far more than any other writing of its age!

The scribes worked meticulously copying each and every detail of the text. It was then checked for accuracy by line. The chief scribes (who had the text memorized) knew exactly how many letters and words should be in each line of text for a particular book. If the copy in question didn’t match up, it was not corrected…it was destroyed. They held the text in such high esteem that they would rather destroy an expensive parchment and throw away the work rather than have one mistake come through their work.

That being said, not every scribe worked so perfectly. We do have “textual variants” within the scriptures. Most of these are sequence variations. In the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, Dr. Bruce Metzger describes it this way. “…it makes a whale of a difference in English if you say ‘Dog bites man’ or ‘Man bites dog’ – sequence matters in English. But in Greek it doesn’t.” Greek is an inflected language, and no matter what order you place the words, the meaning still comes across the same. The meaning isn’t changed in the slightest, but this counts as a textual variant. And if 10 copies of this same variant exist, then scholars count that as 10 textual variants even though they are the same variant (confusing, I know.)

Can the Bible be trusted? Strobel quotes scholars Norman Geisler and William Nix’s conclusion: “The New Testament, then, has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in a purer form than any other great book-a form that is 99.5 percent pure.”

God has preserved His word for us in a fully trustworthy form. All we have to do now is read it!

Want to know more about the Bible? Try these other posts:
The Problem with The Bible
Where Do I Start? – Part 1
Where Do I Start? – Part 2

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Where Do I Start?

From time to time people tell me they want to start reading the Bible, and they almost always share the same question… “Where do I start?”

Last week we talked about how the Bible isn’t just another book. It’s really a collection of writings, and those writings are organized a certain way within the book. Most books are sequential, or chronological in nature. The Bible doesn’t work that way. It’s grouped by type. Let me show you what I mean. We’ll begin with the Old Testament.

The first five books of the Bible make up The Law of Moses (also known as the Pentateuch or the Torah.) These books were compiled and written by Moses and incorporate the earliest history of the Israelites, as well as the books of the law of the covenant between God and his people (such as the 10 commandments.)

The History of Israel is recorded in the next twelve books from Joshua to Esther. Within these writings you can learn about the history of God’s interaction with the Israelites. From entering the promised land, to great battles. Most people know these writings through stories they were taught in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School growing up.

Poetry and Wisdom Literature makes up the next 5 books from Job through Song of Songs. In this section you will find beautiful writings of people who are struggling with God and the pain of this world, songs of praise for God, a graphic description of a man’s love for his wife, and a collection of wise sayings.

The Major Prophets are known as such because their prophecies played a major part in the life of Israel. Many of these writings are quoted by the writers of the New Testament. These books from Isaiah through Daniel foretell of the coming of the Messiah, and include many warnings and depictions of the captivities and destruction that Israel would face in the future because of their disobedience to God.

In a similar way, The Minor Prophets from Hosea through Malachi describe more minor events and prophecies from the history of Israel. These books aren’t any less important, but are more specific in their writings and application. The well known story of Jonah is found here, as well as the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

If you are interested in the history of Israel, studying the long anticipated coming of the Messiah, or want to read some beautiful poetry, you can find what you are looking for in the Old Testament. Click Here to read part two about the New Testament.

The Problem with The Bible

The Bible is not a book.

No, I’m not suffering from a head injury. The Bible is not a book…at least when compared to most people’s definition of books.

If you or I were to sit down and write a book, we’d start at the beginning and write in a linear manner. We’d start at the beginning of our thought, then proceed until we had a completed book. We would proofread our work, and go back and make changes if necessary. We would ask our friends to make suggestions and make changes where we thought improvements could be made. We might even reorder some of the chapters to make the book flow better. But in the end, the book would be written by one person.

Occasionally authors will work together to write a book. They will decide which parts each will write, and will work as a team to reach the finished product. Lots of planning and lots of communication between the authors will lead to a cohesive final product.

That’s not how the Bible was written at all! And that’s the problem. We look at the Bible often as just another book. The problem is we don’t really understand how we got it, and what difference it makes. Let me show you a bit of what I mean.

The Bible is a collection of writings. This is why we call the individual sections of the Bible “books.” Although, that’s sort of a misnomer as it’s made up of historical accounts, poetry, wisdom literature such as Proverbs, as well as letters sent between writers and Christians as a means of encouragement and instruction.

The Bible was written by more than 40 people, most of whom never knew or conversed with each other. It was written over the span of about 1,600 years, in at least 3 languages, on 3 continents, and somehow has a unifying theme that ties everything together. Every part of every section relates to another, all telling the story of God’s love for his creation, and His perfect plan to save the people from their sins.

No book has faced more persecution, scrutiny, and attempted destruction than the Bible, yet it is available today in nearly every language, in thousands of translations, in paper and digital copy, for very little or no cost to its readers. There’s no way that this is possible without the Spirit of God being the influence and inspiration behind every word recorded, and without His provision to ensure you have the ability to own one.

And sadly most people never bother to read it.

The Bible is not a book. It’s the Word of God. A book informs, the Bible is designed to transform. And if we fail to realize the difference, we’ll miss out on an amazing gift that our God has created just for our benefit. It’s time to start reading!

But how? Where do I start? What should I be looking for? We’ll discuss that next time. I’m beginning a series of posts on the history, and delivery of the Bible into our hands as we have it today. I hope you’ll follow along!

From Hacked Email to Changed Lives

Our church email got hacked this morning. Someone pretended to be our secretary, and made it sound like they were stuck in the Philippines and needed money. Needless to say the rest of our morning was full of changing passwords, creating a new email account, answering the unending phone calls of helpful people letting us know they received that email, and rebuilding email lists that the hacker deleted. What a pain!

On the positive side, we were able to create a better email work environment for our church office! We now have all email accounts on the same domain as our website (www.eastsidefamily.church), and we now have access to a number of resources and really awesome tools that we didn’t have with our old email setup. We were able to recreate new, more usable email lists and found a few mistakes we had in the old ones. As of now, our email setup is far better than it has ever been, and none of this would have happened if someone hadn’t hacked into our email! We were able to take a frustrating, bad event, and turn it into something great! (Even though our secretary’s fingers are still tired of retyping all the email lists!)

God often works in a similar way in our lives. All of us have made mistakes, or have failed at some point in our walk with Christ. Some of us lived lives we’re not proud of before we found Jesus. Most people I know are afraid to even talk about their failings. As a dear sister phrased it, we wear our “church face.” We don’t want anyone to know we struggle.

Paul lived a life he wasn’t proud of before he met Jesus. Yet the change in his life was so great that it encouraged others. Paul wrote this about his conversion:

22 …the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:22-24 NLT

We often run from our pasts, but our past in conjunction with our changed life can produce a powerful testimony for Christ! The group I Am Second produces tons of inspiring testimony based on changed lives. The testimony of a changed life is powerful. Don’t run from your past…share your testimony!

Decisions…

Why is it so hard to make decisions, let alone good decisions? Most of our time is spent making decisions.

Can I hit the snooze alarm and still make it to work on time?  Can I hit the snooze alarm again and still make it to work on time? Do I need a shower? What do I want to wear?  What will I eat for breakfast?  If I climb back in bed for a few minutes can I still make it to work on time?

It’s one thing to make meaningless decisions that affect virtually no one but yourself, but some decisions are far reaching…life changing…and they can affect hundreds of people. How do we handle those?

Psalm 86

11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

When we enter into decisions with a pure heart, seeking the Lord’s guidance, and praise our God no matter the outcome, we can be confident in our decision. My prayer today is for both you and me…that we may honor God with our choices, that we may be rely on God’s wisdom, and be confident of his love and guidance in our lives.

I’ll be teaching Bible class, and preaching in Wheeler, TX this weekend. If you’re anywhere near the panhandle region, come on out and say hi!