a Bible Study Course published by the Churches of God
Lesson 2: Can You Trust The Bible?
literally billions of copies of "The Bible" scattered around the world. It's
said to be the world's most read book. You'll find it in almost every top drawer in any
hotel. It ranks year by year as the top-selling title. Millions pick it up every day - for
guidance in life, for intense study, for comfort.
But what is it? Certainly the Christian religion is based on the Bible. Indeed without the Bible Christianity would not exist. But what if it could be shown to be riddled with error? That it depicts non-events? That it is simply imagination run riot? That it is inconsistent? That's what scholars - many of them professing to be Christians - have long sought to do.
The Bible has been undermined in the public mind to such an extent that it is now largely scorned - and sidelined to the point of irrelevance as a source of religious truth.
Yet many of the world's great have extolled its virtues and testified to its value for them. In this lesson of Bible Basics we explore the question Can you trust the Bible? Using the sciences, using the study of the very text of the Bible, using the records of history we will investigate the "book that nobody knows" to find out whether or not you can literally "stake your life" on it.
If the Bible is "just another book" then any future lessons of Bible Basics will be pointless. But if it is indeed "the Word of God" - and can be shown to be so - then all of us need to sit up and take notice.
What is the Bible?
Pick up any full Bible in the Protestant tradition and you will find it has sixty-six "books". Some are long narratives, some are short letters. There are histories, songs, practical manuals, biographies, prophecies. You will see it has two divisions - named the Old Testament and the New Testament. (The word testament means a covenant.)
Which Testament did Jesus use?
Jesus and his apostles used only the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament
- the Law
was the torah, the first five books of our Bible
commended the enquirers in Thessalonia for their diligent
What Scriptures did the early church use?
documents we know as the New Testament (NT) were written
changes from the teachings of the OT are fully documented in
that there are many teachings in the church today which do
demonstrated this approval in a most obvious manner through
the apostles died the NT canon was complete; after this God's
required Timothy to pass on to others "what you have heard
doctrinal innovations contrary to the spirit and teachings of the
But Can You Trust The Bible?
Christians take a variety of positions regarding the authenticity of the Bible. Since the middle of the 19th century, it has been attacked and its authority undermined by "scholars". In consequence its moral influence has sharply declined. Many more now read the Scriptures than a century ago - but it has little impact on life. Even professing Christians pay mere lip-service to its teachings.
The Bible presents itself as the very Word of God. It claims divine inspiration. Yet if it is shown to be in error then how can we believe its claim to be God's revelation to mankind - of his nature, of his purpose for us, of the one and only way of salvation through Jesus Christ?
So - can you trust the Bible?
Attacks on the Bible focus on the text, on its historical references, on whether or not it is mere myth - i.e. man's attempt to make sense of life through imagery.
Is the text of Scripture reliable?
manuscripts (MSS) we have of the OT books date largely from
one chapter of Isaiah only one word differed from Dead Sea MSS
text of the Hebrew Bible was accurately copied, with even the
can rest assured that we have a reliable text both for the OT and
The evidence for the reliability of the New Testament texts is equally strong
latter assert that the older MSS are best, and rely heavily on the
earliest copies of the NT documents were carefully copied, and
And God has "signed" His Book!
Biblical research over the last decade has revealed that God has "made his mark" on the very text of Scripture. Through the use of the incredible search power of modem computers, scholars have discovered hidden depths to the text of the Scriptures.
The results of these researches has been published in the learned Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, the Bible Review and Statistical Science Journal. Each has the most rigorous screening process to ensure published items are thoroughly checked by experts, are scientific and won't bring the journals into disrepute.
In essence, stimulated by a 14th C rabbinical comment, a Jewish scholar discovered - in 1988 - hidden "codes" underneath the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. Normal statistical coincidence is no more than 1 in 20. But the chance of such codes occurring are one in tens of thousands, even billions in some instances. In one search the chances of its occurrence coincidentally was calculated at one in fifty quadrillion. The method is known as equidistant letter spacing.
The computer searches uncovered numerous "coincidences" including historical persons and events - in and out of the Scriptures - later than when the books were written.
Recall that Jesus stated the very text of the Scriptures would remain intact through time...Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17, John 10:35
As far as the text of our Bible is concerned, then, we can have firm confidence in its accuracy - especially those versions based on the textus receptus.
Can we also rely on the Biblical narrative?
Is the Bible just a collection of fables on a level with the Brothers Grimm? Or is it real history, an account of real events of long ago, of real people and nations and empires? When the blind prejudices of scientists in many disciplines are set aside, then the Bible stands out for its integrity and its ability to honestly and accurately reflect its times. Written by some forty-four authors over a period that may stretch for nearly four thousand years it yet has a unity of purpose unique in all religious history.
inscriptions by Nebuchadnezzar confirm the account of the Tower of
18C BC poem confirms the seven years of famine and seven "fat"
historian Manetho records details of the Exodus of the
same historian, also Strabo, confirm inscriptions and artifacts
freed from the chains of traditional chronologies archaeologists have
unfolds in stone the histories, among others, of Joseph, the
Truly, the lives and events recorded in the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments - and now vindicated by the finds of history, archaeology and paleontology - leave no doubt that the skeptics of years gone by were totally wrong in assigning the Scriptures to the dustbin of ancient mythology.
You can indeed trust the Scriptures as the sure record of God's dealings with mankind since his original direct creation by God "from the dust of the ground". It is the record of God's revelation of his perfect way, of his dealings with rebellious man, of his plan to ultimately raise mankind to become integrated into God's Family.
Future lessons of Bible Basics will address important aspects of Bible teaching. Lesson 3 will consider the pivotal figure of Jesus Christ. Did he really live? Who was he? Was he resurrected from the dead? These are among the questions answered in our next lesson.
"...the [Bible] is the Book that has held together the fabric of western civilization...it has unified and kept together great masses of people...it is the handbook of life to countless millions of men and women, it has explained the world to the mass of our people and has given them moral standards and a form into which their consciences could work" [HG Wells]
"If we abide by the principles taught by the Bible our country will go prospering"
Be sure to review
- and apply -
the first lesson with its guide to study!
The word "Bible" (Gk. biblia) means books. it is distinguished by being the first ever printed book.
The original Scriptures were arranged differently from our own versions.
torah means instruction
Be sure to follow up all references in your own Bible! Read not only the verses indicated but also the context.
Note that the apostles, while holding firmly to the meaning of the inspired Hebrew text of the OT, yet quoted freely from the Greek LXX version (the Septuagint) as their primary source. Note, too, that not always did they quote the text exactly.
the canon of Scripture are those books God inspired and which were then formally recognized by the Church. It was not made formal until the Council of Carthage (397 AD), but all books included in the canon had been in use from the earliest times
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