Date: September 22, 2013
Study: Scripture: Unchanging Truth in a Changing World
Teacher: Chad Mann
The Bible came from God, by the Holy Spirit, through men, to humankind.
As Christians, we believe the Bible is God’s letter to humanity collected into 66 books written by 40 divinely inspired writers over the spans of 1,500 years or more. These writers come from all walks of life. We believe the Bible is divinely inspired by God, authoritative for all of life, without error or omission, and infallible in its composition.
Infallibility means that the Bible is in its entirety “inspired” by God. So why do Christians believe the Bible is reliable and true, that it is authoritative as God’s Word? It hinges on three characteristics:
- The New Testament Documents are Historically Reliable and Credible
- Jesus’ Character is Shown as Trustworthy
- Jesus Claims that the Old and New Testament Books were the Word of God
The New Testament Documents are Historically Reliable and Credible
- The New Testament record agrees perfectly with what we know of history elsewhere. The names of emperors and governors and places and events do not disagree with other sources that we have.
- The New Testament reads as a historically reliable document. For example, the New Testament text often shows its human authors in a bad light, as a historical account would. It contains events –such as the crucifixion— that are inconvenient for those seeking to project Jesus as the son of God. And it contains odd bits of details, such as places people stood, the state of the grass on a certain day (John 6:10), etc. that have the feel consistent with eyewitness accounts.
- The New Testament has eyewitnesses of events it describes who were still alive when scholars know that the documents existed. But we do not know of anyone who disputed the factual, historic events described in the New Testament – including Jesus’ death and resurrection. In fact, the disciples who wrote large chunks of the New Testament – Paul, John, Peter – gave their lives for the message of the Bible. (Sidenote: Rarely do men die for what they know to be a lie.)
- The New Testament has far more and earlier manuscripts than any other ancient text. Respected scholar F.F.Bruce said “there is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”
(For example: Homer–> written: 900 BC; earliest copy: 400 BC; number of copies: 643. The New Testament–> written: AD 40-100; earliest copy: AD 125; number of copies: 24,000)
- Three Characteristics: 1) It has a coherent message (its various parts all contribute to a clearly defined message) 2) It is internally consistent (doesn’t contradict itself) 3) It is externally consistent (historically accurate)
Jesus’ Character is Shown To Be Trustworthy
If Christians can convince someone that the Bible is as generally reliable as other historical documents, then the next step is help them see what historical testimony says about the character of Jesus. If the Scriptures are basically unreliable, then there would be no reason to attach any significance to the Jesus of Nazareth. The historically reliable Bible teaches a historically real Jesus.
And the Bible does not teach Jesus was merely a good teacher. In the gospel accounts, Jesus makes prophecies not only of future events such as the destruction of Jerusalem, but of himself and his own work. If he was a true prophet, then all his teaching must be taken seriously. So we establish first the historical reliability of the Bible and then see that Jesus has trustworthy character. From here – we ask: what did Jesus teach about the Scriptures? Did he consider them authoritative?
Jesus Claims that the Old and New Testament Books were the Word of God
Jesus treated the Old Testament as God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant word.Examples:
- In some places we see Jesus claiming that the entire Old Testament is trustworthy. For example, in John 10:34, Jesus notes that Scripture cannot be broken.
- Many times, we see Jesus end his arguments by quoting from Scripture. As far as he was concerned, what scripture said was the end of the matter. In one case, Jesus even argues from the tense of a verb – that’s in Matthew 22. He clearly understand that each and every word was authoritative, not just the major themes.
- Jesus clearly assumes that what is prophesied in the Old Testament must be fulfilled, specifically concerning himself. This is particularly evident in the book of Matthew. And Jesus demands that others recognize that Scripture is fulfilled in him.
- Finally, Jesus establishes a pattern in Matthew 19 that is repeated in the rest of the gospels when he interchanges the phrases “Scripture says” with “God says.”
The Old Testament for Jesus is not merely a record of the words of God; it is the word of God. If we believe in Jesus, then we ought to treat the Old Testament as he did – as the authoritative word of God.
Jesus himself laid the foundation for the New Testament. He taught that his teaching was to be viewed as the authoritative words of God. Examples:
- In John 7:16, he says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.”
- In Matthew (24:35), Mark (13:31), and Luke (21:33), Jesus is recorded as saying, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
- And the crowds noticed this aspect of Jesus’ teaching. The first reaction we see recorded after the Sermon On the Mount is that the people were amazed because Jesus taught as one with authority. (Matt 7:29)
- Jesus not only gives us reason to believe in the truth of his own words, but also in the words of his disciples. He told them that during times of persecution, “what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt 10:19-20).
- Jesus told them in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit would bring to their remembrance all that he has taught them.
- And he told them later that the Spirit would continue to teach them with his own authority even after he had departed. (John 16:12-13)
- Finally, after his resurrection, Jesus declared that his disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them so that they might be his witnesses. (Acts 1:8)
In summary, if we believe Jesus Christ to be the son of God, then we must accept his view of Scripture. And that would lead us to understand the entire Bible as not just being important, but the inerrant, infallible word of God.
When you read your Bible, read it with confidence. God has spoken, that He has revealed
Himself to us in the Scriptures, and we read the same Bible that was handed down by the first apostles of Christ’s church.