Tag Archives: the word

How Do You Know the Bible is True?

With so much in doubt these days of what is true and who we can trust, it is of great significance to know if there actually is an objective standard of truth by which we can make sense of the world.  

It is claimed that the bible is such a document to guide us, even making the outrageous assertion that it is inspired by God himself “and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness.”  

Now, I am not ignorant to the fact that the bible has been used to justify all kinds of madness but I believe that is the fault of people that selectively handle the bible, not the bible itself.  In fact, research indicates that, even when adjusting for education, the more someone ACTUALLY reads the bible the more they will have socially just views (even correlated with leaning “politically liberal”…*gasp!).  And if you think science and religion are incompatible that is NOT what frequent bible readers believe.  Keeping this in mind, how then do we know if the bible is true (as in a reliable historical document as well as something worthy to help guide our lives)?  

THE SHORTER ANSWER

I know that the bible is true because it is like a LAMP* that guides me in the dark.  

LIFE = the bible is true to life, transcending differences.

ARCHAEOLOGY = archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative

MANUSCRIPTS = manuscript copies confirm the reliability of the Bible

PROPHECY – no book comes close in fulfillment of predictive prophecy, demonstrating the bible’s supernatural inspiration

THE LONGER ANSWER

Here is an expansion of each of the four points above.  

1. LIFE – the bible is true to life, transcending differences.

The bible still speaks to us today even though its contents were written thousands of years ago. times and cultures may have changed but what it says about the human condition has not changed.  God has been inspiring people through the words of the bible, resulting in transformed lives throughout history even to this very day.  

There is a remarkable unity of ideas in the bible even though written by/in

  • different authors (kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, shepherds),
  • different places (wilderness <Moses>, dungeon <Jeremiah>, palace <Daniel>, prison <Paul>, while traveling <Luke>, in exile <john>)
  • different times (war, peace)
  • different moods (joy, sorrow, despair, confusion, doubt)
  • different continents (Asia, Europe, Africa)
  • different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek)

 

2. ARCHAEOLOGY – archaeology confirms the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative

“It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference…the almost incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible, and particularly so when it is fortified by archaeological fact” – Nelson Glueck (renowned Jewish Archaeologist)

Old Testament (OT) – some examples of biblical places and events confirmed by archaeological finds

  • City of Sodom and Gomorrah (bituminous pitch – brimstone plentiful at site)
  • City of Jericho (walls that usually fall inward here fell outward)
  • King David (wall past the pool of Siloam)
  • King Solomon (pomegranate temple ornament w/ inscription of God’s name)

New Testament (NT) – archaeological finds confirming the book of Luke for example

  • The Pavement (where Jesus was tried),
  • The Pool of Bethesda,
  • the Nazareth Decree (Imperial Decree not to disturb graves),
  • The Pilate Inscription (Pilate’s name and title),
  • Erastus inscription (Erastus that Paul mentions),
  • New Testament coins (mentioned in gospels indicating values)

 

3. MANUSCRIPTS – Manuscript copies confirm the reliability of the Bible

“to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” – John Warwick Montgomery from History of Christianity

How can we trust that the bible that we have now is what was originally written?

The bible passes the test of the “3 Principles of Historiography”:

1) Bibliographical test (reliability of ancient texts are tested through: # of copies, time between copy to original, and variety of documents <languages, material on which it was written>)  

2) Internal Test – no major contradictions in text

3) External Test – other historical materials confirming testimony of the documents (other sources outside of bible that attest to Christian movement writings): from non-Christians

  1. Tacitus (Roman Historian of 1st century)
  2. Suetonius (chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian who reigned AD 117-138)
  3. Josephus (Jewish Historian AD 37-100)
  4. Pliny the Younger (Roman author and administrator wrote in AD 112)
  5. Lucian of Samosata (Greek writer of the 2nd century)
  6. Mara Bar-Serapion (Syrian writer between late 1st and early 3rd century)  

The Old Testament is reliable too.  

  • Accuracy of coping texts in the Jewish culture was part of their religion
  • The OT was translated into Greek before the birth of Christ (the Septuagint) so even more comparisons can be made for inconsistencies
  • Biblical texts, called the “Dead Sea Scrolls”, dated about 150 BC to 70 AD and representing most of the OT, were found in the 20th century that match much of what we currently have.   

Well, how was the bible put together and who decided what books to include?

There are 5 Principles to Recognize / Test What to Include in Canon (the standard)

“The church did not determine but rather discovered (recognizing divine authority) the cannon”

  1. Was the book written by a prophet of God? (In NT Jesus or Apostolic authorship/apostolic approval <John 16:13 Spirit’s promise, 2 Pet 3:16 Peter acknowledges Paul>)
  2. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God (Moses, Jesus, the prophets, apostles)?
  3. Did the message tell the truth about God? (rule of non contradiction)
  4. Does it come with the power of God? (transforming power)
  5. Was it accepted by the people of God? (people who knew the prophet or writer)

NT books as we have them today:  

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 367) gave us the earliest list of books that is exactly like our present New Testament.  However it is important to know these books were already recognized, established, and quoted from by various early church leaders (ex. Polycarp AD 115, Justin Martyr AD 100) The councils merely put it into writing.        

OT books as we have them today:

The Jewish community had acknowledged it and we know of the discipline of the Jewish scribes through their Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called the Septuagint (250-100 BC)

 

4. PROPHECY – no book comes close in predicitive prophesy, demonstrating the bible’s supernatural inspiration

“Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the Hindu Veda. But none of those books contain predictive prophecy.” – Norman Geisler and William Nix

Notable Examples of Predictive Prophecy:

Destiny of OT Cities “Every major city and virtually every nation within a thousand miles of Israel had its entire future prophesied by the Bible”  

  • Destructions of Tyre (Ezekiel 26 fulfilled in specific invasion by Nebuchadnezzar and later fulfillment by Alexander)
  • Destruction of Edom
  • Curse on Babylon
  • Destruction of Nineveh

Jesus Christ

  • the time, city, and nature of Christ’s birth as well as life, death, and resurrection, many beyond a person’s control were written centuries before he was even born (about 300 prophesies of the messiah) and fulfilled!  

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR FURTHER STUDY

The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

Truths that Transform by D. James Kennedy

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

*LAMP acronym courtesy of Rijin Lee

IMPLICATIONS

(2 Peter 1:16-21, 2 Timothy 3:16, Joshua 1:8)

If the bible is true, let us actually READ it and let it guide our lives.  

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what is biblical justice (and why does it even matter)?

for most of my life when I heard the word “justice” i thought of people getting what they deserved…and by that I mean punishment. and what did justice have to do with social justice? at best my understanding was fuzy and at worst they were on completely different planes. i suspect i’m not the only one. in so much of popular media and movies when a protagonist metes out “justice” it usually means some shady villainous character is in for some pummeling.

but is that the flavor of the word in God’s mouth? is that what the bible has to say about justice? and why does it matter?

let’s ACTUALLY take a look at what the bible has to say about justice.

FIRST, let’s see how much the word actually comes up and presumably how important the subject is to God:

in the old testament* (*i refer to the hebrew bible or the protestant old testament, as other groups add texts that are not in the canon of either traditions)

  • in hebrew (the original language of the old testament) the word that is translated in English as justice is the word: “mishpat
  • the word mishpat is used 426 times (according to the hebrew concordance of the nasb translation) in 403 verses.
  • the word for love (as in the word used concerning how abraham loved his son Isaac, how Isaac loved rebekah, how we are commanded to love the Lord your God from deut 6:5) used in hebrew is “ahab
  • the word ahab is used 220 times in 202 verses

the word “justice” is used about twice as much as the word love.

in the new testament

  • in greek (the original language of the new testament) the word that is translated in English as justice is the world: “krisis” (we know this is the equivalent word for the hebrew word mishpat as krisis is used in the greek when matthew quotes from the old testament book of isaiah 42:3)
  • the word krisis is used 47 times in 46 verses
  • the word for cross (you know, what Jesus was hung on to die slowly of suffocation) used in greek is “stauros
  • the word stauros is used 27 times in 27 verses

the word justice is used nearly twice as much as the word for the cross (what christians use as a symbol to identify their faith).

needless to say, even from a cursory reading of bible, it is fair to say that justice is a big deal to God.

in fact, the prophet micah sums up a God honoring life in this oft quoted verse:

“he has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

– micah 6:8

how then do we “do justice”?  what is justice in the eyes of God?

NOW THEN, let’s look again to the scripture to see how the word justice is used:

in the old testament

often times the word “mishpat” is translated in english as other words such as “judgment”, “manner”, “right”, “cause”, or “ordinance.”   if we look at just the words that are translated as the english word “justice”, what was most shocking to me was how it was actually used and to whom it was most often applied. the word is not used, mainly, toward sinister abusive people…it is used more for the most needy and vulnerable in society (just for starters see exodus 23:6, deuteronomy 10:18, psalm 82:3, ecclesiastes 5:8, isaiah 1:17. there are so many more…if you don’t believe me do a word search on justice in any bible app/website and actually read the verses in context)

wait…so we’re supposed to punish the needy, the poor, the immigrant, the orphan, the widow (which it seems is the tact that too many are actually taking in america)?

NO! it is the definition of justice as mainly having to do with punishment that is not reliable. let’s take a closer look at a passage that talks about what God means by justice in more depth.

27 “‘Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
28 they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.

29 Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares the Lord,
‘and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?’”

– jeremiah 5:27-29

in verse 28 justice is equated with making the cause of the fatherless prosper and defending the rights of the needy.

yes, those who do not do that, especially those who maintain power by neglecting those in need, will be punished. But justice is not just punishment of evil (which, in context, is neglecting those in need) but it is the doing of good (acting on the interest of those in need). we tend to focus on the former and neglect the latter.

in fact, whenever the word justice is used in the old testament, more often in the same breath it is linked to caring for and acting on the interest of those in need.

in the new testament

speaking of former and latter things, we see this same vein of the usage of the word justice carry into the new testament as even Jesus weighs in on the issue of justice in case it wasn’t clear.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

– matthew 23:23

in this passage Jesus underscores the importance of justice. he even ties justice together with mercy and faithfulness (and in the parallel passage of luke 11:42, to the love of God). the luke 11 passage calls to mind the greatest commandment which are to love God and to love others. justice, then, is paralleled with loving of others.

the reason why the term “social justice” is not used in the bible is because, to God, justice and social justice are inextricably linked.

 

IN SUMMARY then, what is biblical justice and why does it matter?

Q: what is biblical justice?

A: biblical justice ≠ mere punishment

biblical justice = social justice = taking action to uplift those in need

Q: why does biblical justice matter?

A: it is the weight of the heart of God, so heavy that it encompasses love and takes Him to death on a cross

or to put it differently

The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.

– proverbs 21:15

So are we living justly?

day 14: incarnation (God as a human)

Isaiah 11:1-9; John 1:14; John 8:12

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump ofJesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” – Isaiah 11:1-5

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12

the artist joan osborne once asked in a song “what if God was one of us?” God actually gave us an answer: i was and i am…his name is Jesus of nazareth. it is a wonderful and terrifying mystery that God became a human being. so it begs the next question: what was/is He like? well if we use the scriptures listed above we learn that at the very least:

1) He has insight and understanding into ALL things. His discernment goes far beyond physical sensory perception…He sees beyond appearances. He does not make decisions like men do. who really knows anything to the heart, really, except God himself?

2) He really likes being in awesome reverence of God. its strange because even though He is God, He delights in God, and reveres God. maybe this means He has a totally right view of Himself, He is at total peace with himself. who has total insight, even into themselves, and still has total respect for themselves and are at peace with it?

3) He focuses on the poor and the meek. with all this power and authority, this is who He spends time with and lives among? its preposterous…it hurts our pride…its true…precisely because men wouldn’t do that. who, having all the authority and power of the world at their disposal, would give themselves to the poor and the nobodies?

4) His words have such weight people can die from just being in its presence. forget about that dos equis most interesting man in the world…He IS The Man in the world. people are cut to the quick by His words. no one can escape them. we’ve tried to hush them up, ignore them, or get rid of them for over two millenia…they just won’t die. whose words mean anything these days…who actually sticks to them…who actually has any authority to carry them out?

5) He is righteous and faithful. who is righteous and faithful? stop. ’nuff said.

6) He is full of grace and truth. He does not lie…He cannot lie…
He only speaks and lives the truth. yet, even though He knows all the truth about all of us, He overflows with the ability to give us good when we deserve the worst. whom of us pour forth only truth and always chooses to offer grace?

7) He is the guide to life. who can make the guarantee that where they are leading is absolutely the right way? only God who walked the way Himself first.

for reflection i’ll ask the same question joan osborne asked: “…if God had a face what would it look like / and would you want to see / if seeing meant that you would have to believe…?”

thank you Lord for showing us yourself.

day 1: creation

AN INTRODUCTION TO THIS 25 DAY SERIES:

A friend on my intern team suggested we do advent readings, a tradition of preparing people’s hearts for the Christ in Christmas. So, I thought I would record the passages as well as some brief meditations for the next 25 days (well 22 now), and hope others will join in as well (feel free to share your thoughts and reflections!)…that we would really take in the undeserved gift of His life.

THE READINGS FOR DAY 1:

1: Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3

A VERSE SELECTED FROM EACH:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
-Genesis 1:1 (all verse references from ESV in this series, unless otherwise stated)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
-John 1:1

SOME THOUGHTS:

It is so easy to lose sight of the beginning in the midst of the now…that there was something/someone of significance that preceded us…that it’s not all about us. It’s a fact we can’t escape but one that we forget routinely.  He made EVERYTHING. He precedes everything. There is nothing too big for Him or beyond Him.  He is the creator, the originator…the source of all.  He is the ultimate authority.  With a word He spoke and it was.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/APPLICATION:

Do I live my daily life in the understanding that He precedes all things and has ultimate control of all things?  Do I believe His Word has the authority over heaven and earth?

BREATH PRAYER (a very short prayer we can say through out the day):

(breathe in) thank you Lord (breathe out) that you are Creator…that you are before all things.

***for reference here are the passages for all 25 days till Christmas.

1: Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3
2: Genesis 3; Matthew 1:21
3: Genesis 12:1-3; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Matthew 1:1-17
4: Genesis 22:1-14; John 1:29-37
5: Isaiah 7:10-17; Matthew 1:22-25
6: Micah 5:1-5; Matthew 2:13-15
7: Hosea 11:1-12; Matthew 2:13-15
8: Jeremiah 31:15-34; Matthew 2:16-23
9: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Psalm 18:2; Luke 1:67-69
10: Psalm 106:1-12; Luke 1:70-75
11: Isaiah 63:8-9; Luke 2:1-20
12: Isaiah 42:1-8, 49:1-6; Luke 2:25-32
13: Isaiah 9:1-7; John 1:4-5
14: Isaiah 11:1-9; John 1:14; John 8:12
15: Exodus 40:34-38; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; John 1:14
16: Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:23-24; John 10:11-18
17: Zechariah 3:8, 6:12-13; John 15:1-8
18: John 1:18; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-4
19: Philippians 2:5-11
20: Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 3:8
21: Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:16
22: Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16-21
23: Psalm 72:10-15; Matthew 2:1-11
24: Isaiah 9:1-7; Luke 1:79
25: Psalm 24:7-10; Luke 2:1-14