Tag Archives: truth

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  Keeping this in mind, how then do we know if the bible is true (as in a reliable historical document as well as something worthy to help guide our lives)?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.  

day 15: glory

Exodus 40:34-38; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; John 1:14

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Throughout all their journeys,whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.  But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.  For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.” – Exodus 40:34-38

“When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.  The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’” – 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

glory: praise, honor; beauty and splendor.  the glory of the One who can say “I AM” over all time and eternity…what would it be like to encounter Him?  In time past His radiance had to be accompanied with “the cloud” and “the fire”.  these physical things served to reveal but then also to conceal His glory…something so terrifying and overwhelming…that it completely filled the vessel He entered so much so that no one could be in the same place…and to which the only response was to fall on one’s face with recognition of how awesome He is.

then His glory came in the form of a man…The Man.  at first sight He came in a vessel so ordinary and approachable…seeming to conceal but then also to reveal…to anyone willing to take a deeper second look.  John and some of his audience were able to see the glory of God…in the flesh…in Jesus the Christ.  the glory of God was revealed in the fullness of His grace (undeserved favor) and truth (what is actually True).  grace and truth are qualities of the God who made heaven and earth…they are facts from eternity.

then this next step is mind-blowing…to consider that followers of Him are called not only the temple of Christ but the body of Christ.  if all the fullness of the glory of God dwells in Jesus’ body and we are called His body…what does that mean…what should that mean…and look like?  indeed…as the scriptures remind us “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

how can we, this day, be filled with the fullness of His grace and truth and so glorify Him?  if we find we are not filled with Him…with grace and truth, then what are we filled with?

thank you Lord that you reveal your glory

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.