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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Life Back Then

This was posted by John Mark Hicks this morning on Facebook. I thought it was too good to not share. We get to take a look into the early life of the church!

Letter of Mathetes to Diognetus (probably around 130-150 A.D.)

“Christians are indistinguishable from other people either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life….With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign…And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through…Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country….They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all people….A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”

1 Peter 2:12, “Conduct yourselves honorably among the nations, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.”

Where Do I Start? – Part 2

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 looked the way the Old Testament is organized, the purpose of the writings, and the topics covered. This week we’ll focus on the New Testament.

The first four books of the New Testament make up The Gospels (“gospel” means “good news.”) These books cover the life of Jesus, but they aren’t biographies you and I are used to. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic gospels” because they are so similar in the content the events they cover, but each writer arranges the events in a different order so the story had the greatest impact on their original audience (very common to the writing style of the time.) John uses a different approach than the others for the same reason. All four books give us the details of Jesus’ ministry on the earth.

The book of Acts is written by Luke, the same man that wrote the Gospel of Luke. It’s a continuation of the Jesus story and it includes details about Jesus’ last days on earth, then covers the beginnings and spread of the first church. We see events and history recorded about the other writers of the New Testament, as well as read many stories of how early Christians cared for one another and were so dedicated to Christ that they were willing to face death because of their faith.

The Pauline Epistles is a fancy way of saying “Paul’s Letters.” These were letters written by Paul, an apostle that we first meet in Acts, to various churches that he worked with in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, two letters to a young preacher named Timothy, and a letter written to a man named Philemon.

The General Letters function much the same way as Paul’s letters, they just weren’t written by Paul. These writings include an anonymous letter called Hebrews, a letter from James, the earthly brother of Jesus, two letters from the apostle Peter, and three from the apostle John.

The final book in the New Testament is the book of Revelation where the apostle John recounts a vision that he had from God. He writes specific warnings from Jesus for seven churches in Asia, as well as a very apocalyptic description of God’s ultimate victory over evil, as well as a beautiful description of Heaven.

Hopefully these past two posts have given you some insight into the organization of the writings contained in the Bible. “So where do I start?”  Well, it depends. If you have never read the Bible before, I always recommend The Gospel of John near the beginning of the New Testament. John does a fantastic job of sharing the life of Jesus with his readers.

If you’re looking for specific answers to questions you have, you can use this summary to look on your own, do a search on BibleGateway, or you can always email me.

Next time we’ll discuss if the Bible can be trusted.

 

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.

Beyond the Comfort Zone

In Mark 5 we find Jesus leaving his native area to sail across the lake and go into the gentile region of the Gerasenes. They got out of the boat and immediately were approached by a demon possessed man who had been living in the tombs. In addition to this we’re told that there were large herds of pigs in the area.

Understanding exactly what Jesus is doing here can be missed pretty easily by our 21st century eyes, so let’s get an understanding of the background first. Jews did not want to associate with Gentiles in any way, yet Jesus is leading the twelve into Gentile country. Jews avoided people with unclean spirits, yet Jesus leads them right to a man who’s possessed by a “Legion” of demons. Jews avoided tombs because they felt it was unclean, yet here Jesus leads them right into that area with a man who lived in them. Jews thought pigs were the most unclean animals on the planet, yet Jesus leads his followers right into a heard of them. I think it’s fair to say that the disciples were well outside of their comfort zone during this encounter! And it’s very clear that Jesus wanted them there.

In healing the demon possessed man, Jesus is giving the disciples a preview that the Gospel would be for all people, and their location, ethnicity, history, past or current demons, place of residence, and present state in life truly didn’t matter. The Gospel of Jesus needs to go everywhere, especially the areas that make us feel the most uncomfortable!

Jesus was a true friend to sinners, and spent time with the people and in the places that the current religious leaders wouldn’t think of going. Yet that’s the command we’re given! “Go and make disciples of all nations,…” (Matt. 28:19)  The Greek word for “all nations” is ethnos. Literally every ethnicity, no matter where they are or what they’ve been doing.

So who do you cross paths with in your life that fits this description? Jesus says share the Gospel with them. That’s our job. What becomes of the message? That’s the Spirit’s job. And I trust Him to do powerful things with the powerful message that we weak humans share.

Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

Psalm 25

I love the Psalms. They were songs that were written thousands of years ago by people going through times of great joy, or through some of the darkest times of their lives.

I am convinced that for any situation of life we might face, there’s a Psalm for that.

I was reading through Psalms last night, and came across Psalm 25. It is a Hebrew acrostic poem written by King David. It really seemed to resonate with me. In view of the current situations facing our country, our world, some of our friends and neighbors, some decisions we have to make soon…

Wherever you are, whatever you are going through…I hope something from this will give you comfort and encouragement today.

Blessings,

Matt

Psalm 25

A psalm of David.

O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
    which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
    Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
    for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
    all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

11 For the honor of your name, O Lord,
    forgive my many, many sins.
12 Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.
13 They will live in prosperity,
    and their children will inherit the land.
14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
    He teaches them his covenant.
15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
    for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

16 Turn to me and have mercy,
    for I am alone and in deep distress.
17 My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!
18 Feel my pain and see my trouble.
    Forgive all my sins.
19 See how many enemies I have
    and how viciously they hate me!
20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
    Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge.
21 May integrity and honesty protect me,
    for I put my hope in you.

22 O God, ransom Israel
    from all its troubles.