THE MAIN POINT
Questioning the legitimacy of the Bible is nothing new, but we must handle the evidence carefully to discover how incredibly accurate and trustworthy the Bible is.
In Luke 24 Jesus approaches some of his disciples who had seen him brutally killed and don’t yet know he is alive again. They are feeling defeated and Jesus delivers some unexpected words about them being “slow to believe all the prophets had spoken.” When Jesus speaks of “the prophets,” this was a Jewish way of generally speaking about the Bible. In other words, the disciples of Jesus were the first skeptics of the Bible as it related to Christianity. What is so amazing about Jesus is that he doesn’t leave them confused, or distressed. but he gives them evidence to prove they could trust the Bible. We have evidence today to prove to us that the Bible can be trusted, but we need to take the time to discover it.
Questions: Is the Bible historically legitimate? Are there contradictions? Is it just some made-up stories? These are all great questions. And so often we think about them, but don’t know where to go in discovering the answers. Today’s message will begin the journey for us in understanding the truth of the Bible.
As you prepare the core of the message, keep in mind these points:
1. Has the Bible changed? Is it accurate?
- Historians tell us that the Bible is actually one of the most reliable and credible ancient documents. One of the reasons is that it has largely stayed the exact same throughout history. Historical reliability can be measured. Watch this video with your listeners to show what the historical accuracy of the Bible looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtyOqPBGhno
In addition to its historical accuracy, the ancient Jews who wrote and copied the Bible cared so much about it because they knew it was the “Word of God.” The process for making copies would have involved one scribe writing with two others over the copier’s shoulder, and if they made a single mistake, all three scribes would initial the mistake or the manuscript would be destroyed. EXTREME CARE was taken.
2. Are there contradictions?
- Many people believe the Bible contains contradictions and mistakes. If you were to jump on Reddit you would find threads with people sharing their misunderstood and uneducated opinions of the mistakes they believe are in the Bible. Adding fuel to the fire there are popular books that state that there are over 400,000 errors in the Bible. Sadly these claims have caused many Christians to doubt their faith and many skeptics of faith to feel justified in their assertion of the Bible’s errors. But what are the alleged errors?
- We find that many of the “mistakes” people cite in the Bible are not “errors” but passages that are misread or misunderstood and have been known and explained by scholars for many years. When popular books claim there are 400,000 errors in the Bible, they are not talking about 400,000 separate errors. Rather they are speaking of variations between the 20,000 original manuscripts (historical reliability video). In other words, there is occasionally a word here or there spelled differently in the original Greek or Hebrew when you compare one manuscript to another. Meaning, that if there was a spelling error for example in one verse, and that copy was copied 100 times, they would claim that there were 100 errors, not 1. New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg, points out that based on this logic, this book written about the errors in the Bible has 1.6 million errors since there were “16 typos and 100,000 copies made.”
- These “errors” should not worry Christians about the reliability of the Bible as they do not change the stories, concepts, or doctrine. There are actually only two disputed passages in the entire Bible, that are more than two verses in length (Mark 16:9-20 & John 7:53-8:11). Christians do not hide this information from anyone. If you pick up any English version of the Bible today it will inform you of the dispute saying, “The earliest manuscripts do not include this passage.”
- What about the contradictions between the Old & New Testament? Some people claim that the Old & New Testaments say very different things, therefore that’s a contradiction. The Old Testament says don’t eat pork or get tattoos but Christians do, so what’s up with that? When we read the Old Testament we are reading about the laws & practices of a specific nation and people: Israel. These laws and practices pointed to a coming time when they would be fulfilled by a new way of believing and relating to God, that a Messiah would come and usher in a new way of living. The New Testament makes it clear that the Messiah has come, and it is Jesus. Jesus has made us clean, not sacrifices. Jesus completed the work, not us keeping the laws. The rules have changed meaning you can’t understand the Bible without understanding it as a story that progresses. Christians no longer live under the rules of the Kingdom of Israel but under the rule of Jesus Christ and his new kingdom.
3. Is the Bible just some made-up stories?
- An easy argument could be that the Bible is just made up by a bunch of people who wanted to get famous or have power, and really it’s all just lies. There are a couple of really easy responses to this question:
- The gospels (the stories of Jesus’ life) were written 30-50 years after the life of Jesus and were circulated. The gospels include names, dates, and places; meaning if you’re going to make up stories about the miracles or events of Jesus, wait until all the eyewitnesses are dead and gone. The gospel writers didn’t do that, they wanted people to ask questions directly to those involved. This is why when Paul writes that over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus he notes saying, “most of whom are still alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:6) What he is saying is if you have any doubts, go ask them.
- The Bible is also “counter-productive content” (Timothy Keller). This means that those who wrote the Bible told stories you probably wouldn’t have written if you actually wanted people to trust you and follow Jesus. Stories like Jesus, the GOD-man, being extremely anxious and sweating blood, looking weak and vulnerable (Mark 14). OR Jesus answering questions with “I don’t know (Mark 13). How does the GOD-man not know everything? OR the choice of Jesus’ disciples, his closest followers, the ones who would take his truth to the far reaches of the world. And they were mainly uneducated, angry, power-hungry children. Why would the GOD-man choose them? Is he stupid?!
- Real-life change: The Story of James. James was Jesus’ younger half-brother. The last time we hear of James in the gospels is in John 7, where Jesus is with his biological brothers. They are mocking him and “did not believe in him.” The next time we hear of Jesus’ brothers is in Acts 1, those who followed Jesus were waiting for the Holy Spirit including “his brothers.” James goes on to write a book of the Bible where he describes himself not as Jesus’ younger brother, but as a servant of Jesus. WHAT CHANGED?! What made a younger brother who mocked his older brother become his servant? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but it does tell us that Jesus appeared to over 500 people. What if one of those 500 was James?
As you prepare the application, challenge, and/or encouragement, keep in mind these points: