The Bible is God’s witness to all mankind that he is God. It is the greatest religious proof source to all of mankind. Most people in the world believe in God because of the Bible. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have their basis in the Old Testament.
Why study the Bible? Some people pray because they want to speak to God, but they do not read his Word because they don’t care about what God wants to say to them. The Bible is God speaking to you, and the Bible tells us that we need to read it.
If you don’t read the Bible, you must rely on hearsay. You will often get an incomplete or incorrect message. If you believe you can learn God’s Word by just going to church, you may be in for a long wait before the pastor gets to a message that answers your specific needs. Furthermore, why get second hand information when you can read it firsthand. If you were dying of a certain disease you probably would want to read more information than what the doctor told you. If you care about your body, why not be concerned about your soul? Finally, it is difficult to personally witness to others without reading the Bible.
Some people do not read the Bible because they don’t believe it. They really don’t know the facts. I can understand the view of an agnostic or an atheist, but I cannot understand the logic of being a Christian and not believing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In this lesson we will learn about the history of the Bible, and why it must be inerrant.
Ancient Bible history
Writings of Scripture go back as far as about 1,500 B.C., and ended about 100 years after the death of Christ. Although we do not have the original manuscripts, there have been many archeological discoveries that support the Bible as we know it today. Discoveries such as the Rosetta Stone, the Moabite Stone, the ruins of the city of Ur, the find of the Hittites, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are a few examples. The first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch and were written by Moses. These books are also known as the Torah (meaning “law”) by the Jews. The books of Psalms and Proverbs have several authors. The total Bible consists of two testaments consisting of 66 books. These books were written by about 40 men. You may be surprised to learn that we do not know who wrote 6 books of the Old Testament and the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The Word of God is referred to in the scriptures by 22 names.* A few examples of these names are: the Law, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of Truth, the Oracles of God, and the Word of Life.
The Bible was only a series of books without chapters or verses and was not a completely organized Bible as we know it until centuries later. The Bible can be divided into several groups:
Preparation.....the Old Testament
The Old Testament can also be divided by books of law, history, poetry and wisdom, and prophesy. The Bible is a book of God’s continual instruction and revelation to mankind. The books of the Bible have been protected by men of God for centuries so they would not be changed or corrupted. Modern archeological findings of ancient manuscripts support the theological accuracy of the Bible we have today.
Many so-called Christians do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. I believe that a true Christian must believe that the entire Bible is factually true. To believe otherwise is like a lawyer who brings his best witness to the stand and then tells the jury that the witness is known for saying things that are untrue. Is it not true that our faith is based on what we and others have learned from the Bible? Our faith in God’s Word should not be any weaker than our faith in God. It also should not be a blind faith. We will learn in this lesson the rational reasons why the Bible is inerrant.
The Bible states that it is inerrant
Yes, the same source we use to prove the existence of God and Christ states that it is without error. The Bible states it is inerrant in numerous places.
Pet 1:20…... above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor 2:13-14…... This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Gal 1:11-12…... I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Jesus believes in a literal Old Testament
Jesus frequently taught and quoted from the Old Testament so who are we to argue with Christ. The following scripture clearly states what Jesus thought of the Old Testament. The following are examples of Jesus accepting Old Testament scriptures:
1. Matt 12:40…... For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
2. Matt 5:17-18…... Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Who believes in the Miracles in the Bible?
I always find it amusing when someone says that they are a Christian, but they do not believe in the miracles of the Bible. I would ask them one question: “Which is the greater miracle; that a man lived in a fish for 3 days; or that a man claimed to be the Son of God, was born of a virgin, died on a cross, and arose from the dead in 3 days? Do you get my point? We cannot believe in Jesus unless we believe in the Bible with all its miracles. How can we believe Jesus is the Son of God and deny the miracles he did or the miracles Jesus himself believed to be true?
Were the writers of the Bible really speaking God’s words?
First of all, Jesus said that his disciples would speak without error, so we see that God did in fact speak through his followers. Matt. 10:19…... But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.
Why believe Paul?
I occasionally encounter people who say they believe the gospels, but they do not believe Paul since he taught submission of women and other weird ideas. Peter also encountered such people in his time. We must remember that Peter was one of the original disciples. Furthermore, Jesus said that Peter was the rock upon which he would build his church.
What did Peter say to these critics of Paul? Did he actually call them ignorant and unstable? He couldn’t say that in most churches today because his words would be considered hateful. We read his words in
2 Pet 3:14-16…... So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Sometimes the Bible seems to clearly contradict itself. First of all, some stories in the Bible are told more than once from different perspectives. Different Gospels often tell the same story but focus on different details. If one Gospel does not tell of a particular detail, it does not mean that it did not happen.
A prime example of different perspectives is the story of the resurrection. It is told in Matt. 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-19, Luke 24:1-12, and John 28:1-18. If you read all four stories it seems as if they contradict each other. I suggest that four people in the class each read one of the resurrection scriptures. The class can then discuss the various differences in the stories before reading the following explanation.
I believe that the first thing you need to do is realize that these accounts are collective in nature and are not told for the purpose of mentioning all the small details. Keeping that in mind, here is how I understand the story:
1. Just as the sun was starting to rise on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (wife of Clopas) went to see the tomb of Jesus.
2. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary probably went earlier than the others as a separate group since Matthew tells us those two went to “look at the tomb” (no mention of spices), and John tells us it was dawn and “still dark” out.
3. Salome, and the other women had spices to anoint the body. They most likely got to the tomb shortly after Mary Magdalene.
4. Even if they all arrived together, Mary Magdalene (and possibly the other Mary) saw the stone was rolled away and ran ahead to tell Peter and the disciples.
5. Meanwhile, the other women had met an angel at the tomb entrance as they were entering the tomb. The angel told them to continue on inside where they saw two angels standing beside them.
6. The women ran to tell Peter and the disciples what happened.
7. Upon reaching Peter and the disciples, Mary Magdalene was still there. All the women told what they saw, but Mary Magdalene could only talk about the stone since she left before the others saw the angels. That explains why Mary Magdalene thought someone took the body of Christ.
8. They all return to the tomb, but Mary stays and meets Jesus.
9. Jesus then appeared to several of the women and tells them to have the disciples meet him in ‘Galilee.
Another example of two conflicting stories is that Matt.27:5 states Judas hung himself but Acts 1:18 says Judas died by throwing himself off a cliff. It is most likely that Judas hung himself first but it did not work (since hanging usually requires that the neck breaks). He then made sure he would die by jumping off a cliff.
Aside from differing perspectives, another reason people are often confused about scripture is that there are different names for the same thing.
1. For example, Matthew and Mark refer to the “Sea of Galilee” in their accounts, but the same body of water is called “Lake Gennesaret” by Luke, and the “Sea of Tiberius by John.
2. Another example is that Acts 1:9-12 says Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives but Luke claims in Luke 24:50-51 that Jesus ascended from Bethany. One only has to look at an ancient map and see that Bethany is on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet.
Other times a story may seem to be the same story, but it is actually a similar story. Jesus, for example, may have said or done the same things on different occasions. He also probably gave the same sermon numerous times to different crowds. For example, Jesus cleansed the temple on two different occasions. Jesus fed 4,000 on one occasion and 5,000 on another occasion.
An example of apparent conflicting stories Is whether Jesus preached his first sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:1-2) or on the plain (Luke 6:17-20). Neither account claims to be his first preaching. Close study reveals that the sermon in Luke was given to the crowds, whereas the account in Matthew is a separate sermon that was a similar sermon given to just his disciples in private.
A really good example of two stories being confused as one story is the account of the birth of Jesus. An atheist once told me that he does not read the Bible because it is full of contradictions. He pointed out that in one place in the Bible it says Jesus was born in a manger and another place it says he was born in a house. I told the Atheist that I would call him right back as soon as I found and read the two passages. I called him back in about an hour or so and told him he was right. The one passage in Luke chapter 2 says that Jesus was born in a manger, and he was visited by shepherds. The other scripture in Matt 2:11 says that Jesus was visited by wise men in a house.
The scripture reads: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Sure enough, the Magi went to a house rather than a manger. The apparent answer would be that the house was an inn and that the manger was behind the house. There is however a more probable answer. This is the answer I gave the atheist to explain the apparent contradiction:
1. The full story is that shepherds visited the manger. Sometime later Joseph and Mary moved into a house where they were visited by Magi bearing gifts. We know because of several facts.
2. First of all, Matthew chapter 2 starts out by saying: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” It says “after” and not “when” Jesus was born.
3. We also know that at least a year or so had passed by because Herod thought the child could be as old as two years. We read this in Matt 2:16: “16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” The Magi had apparently been following the star for quite some time and the star might have first appeared on the day Jesus was born.
4. In no place in Matthew 2 does it say the Magi visited Christ at his birthplace. Instead, it says: Matt 2:9….. “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
5. There is no mention of shepherds. This is because the shepherds visited Jesus a long time earlier at his birthplace at the manger as described in Luke.
I must also add that even award-winning religious expert David Waters (former religious writer for the Washington Post) does not understand the birth of Christ. He wrote an article entitled, " The Why, the How of Christmas." In this article he wrote that “Even the Gospel writers couldn’t agree on how the story starts”. He actually went on to say that “in one, the birth is attended by three kings from the East. In another, shepherds witness the miracle and spread the word.” This is proof that even experts can be wrong when they are too quick to prove contradictions in the Bible.
Guidelines for Biblical interpretation
In order to correctly understand the Bible, we first, we need an appropriate version. Secondly, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, we need to make sure we are aware of the context of the verse, the context of chapter, the context of the testament, and the context within the whole Bible. We then need to discern whether we are reading a literal passage or a figurative passage. For example: The Bible says that Satin comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It certainly does not mean that the Devil will dress up like a sheep. In other words, we must be able to identify metaphors, analogies, and allegories (parables). Finally, if we do not understand what we are reading, go to another Christian or to your pastor and ask for help.
It’s Greek to me
Beware of people that try to change the meaning of scripture by telling you what a word really means in Greek or Hebrew. They possibly have read a book by someone who was at the bottom of their class in Greek 101. Some people might even find that using Greek or Hebrew is an easy way to mislead you.
1. Remember that the translations we have were written by not only one person, but a large number of experts that have the endorsement of the biblical community.
2. We should also be aware that sometimes the root or origin of a word has a totally different meaning than the final word.
3. Textual accuracy also comes into play in translation.
Sometimes the Greek or Hebrew adds to the total picture or understanding the same as a footnote in a study Bible. However, I would never change the meaning of a word based on an author with a book to sell and an ax to grind.
An important warning
The book of Revelation says specifically that it is a sealed book. Anyone who changes these teachings will be subject to eternal punishment. I believe the same warning holds true for all of God’s Word. Rev 22:18-20….. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
We see that there is no contradiction in any of these examples in the lesson. Each disciple told in his own way what he felt was important. However, a person who does not believe in an inerrant Bible will jump to conclusions that each Gospel is in conflict with the other.
Not all truth is in the Bible, but the Bible is all truth. If you believe in God even partially because of the Bible, then how can your own proof source be wrong? If the Bible is only partially true, then on what basis do you pick what is right? Is it by your own reasoning or someone else’s reasoning? If you do not believe in an inerrant Bible, then your belief in God is based on not on faith, but on human opinion and imagination.
1. Do you believe that the Bible is without theological error? Explain.
2. Have you found any scripture that is hard to explain or appears contradictory?
3. Would you feel comfortable defending the Bible to a person who does not believe the Bible?
4. Do you feel it is important to read the Bible? Explain.