Holy Bible, Wholly True
In recent weeks I have had several conversations with Christians who admitted that they voted “Yes” in the recent Australian plebiscite on same sex marriage. When I asked them how they came to that decision, they said things like, “I can’t really see anything wrong with allowing homosexuals to be happy too.” When they asked me why I voted “no”, I pointed to the clear teaching in the Bible that condemns homosexuality; from the repeated denunciation in Leviticus 18 and 20, to the unequivocal condemnation of the practice in Romans 1, which refers to it as “unnatural” and “detestable” in God’s eyes. I asked these people how they responded to the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality in these and other passages. They responded with comments like, “It just doesn’t seem right to call it a sin” and “Maybe those parts don’t apply to us today”.
This is an increasingly common phenomenon; Christians who have a diminished view of the Bible – who regard it as partially outdated, and containing ethics that no longer apply to our modern world. Of course, this is not a new claim. For over one hundred years, liberal Christians have been claiming that the Bible is full of myths, errors, misguided human interpolations and outdated ethics.
Several years ago, I preached a sermon about the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. I explained how some Christians regard sections of the Bible as outdated and irrelevant. As I did, I started ripping pages and whole sections out of an old Bible and then flinging them into the air, saying things like, “This bit’s no good, let’s get rid of that! And I don’t agree with this bit, so let’s rip that out too!” The congregation was horrified that I was desecrating a Bible, but I explained to them that this is precisely what people are doing when they pick and choose which bits to believe and which bits to disregard.
The Bible claims that it is entirely inspired and authoritative; “ALL scripture is inspired by God, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). As an evangelical Christian I believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and timelessly authoritative in its entirety. But I don’t hold onto this view blindly; there is significant evidence that supports such a high view of the scriptures. Let me briefly mention some of that evidence:
- INTERNAL CONSISTENCY
The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,600 years, by over 40 different authors from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds. Yet despite this, it exhibits an internal consistency that is beyond remarkable – it is miraculous! I often say to my Biblical Studies classes that if I sent them to watch a football match and each student had to write a report of the match, the resulting collage of reports would almost certainly contain discrepancies, inconsistencies and contradictions. Such is our fallible human nature. But the Bible contains no such inconsistencies. (Claims, by sceptics, of internal contradictions, arise because of an inadequate understanding of the differences between the two covenants). Despite the diversity of authorship and time periods, the Bible speaks with a cohesive, unified voice. This is only possible because of the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit as He guided the writers to record God’s message to mankind.
- FULFILLED PROPHECY
In his “Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies”, J. Barton Payne lists 1817 predictive prophecies in the Bible. While some of these are still awaiting fulfilment, as they are predictions regarding the end times, the rest were fulfilled in precise detail, often centuries after the prediction. 191 of these prophecies are messianic. They predicted the precise nature of Christ’s birth, ministry, death and resurrection. For example, 700 years before Christ, Isaiah made the seemingly outrageous prediction that the Messiah would be born to a virgin (Isa 7:14). Micah predicted that he would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). Moses, writing 1,500 years before Christ, predicted that he would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10). Furthermore, Isaiah predicted his rejection and death at the hands of the Jewish leaders (Isa 53). Even more remarkably, Psalm 22 predicted Christ’s death by crucifixion, including the piercing of his hands and feet, yet this was written centuries before the Romans invented crucifixion! Other extraordinary predictions include the piercing of his side with a spear (Zech 12:10), the casting of lots for his clothing (Psa 22:18), the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray him (Zech 11:12-13), that Jesus would be beaten and spat upon (Mic 5:1), that he would be given wine vinegar to drink as he died (Psa 22:15-16), and that he would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isa 53:9). Most extraordinary of all, Daniel even predicted the exact year of Christ’s death (Dan 9:24-26) [See Footnote 1 for full explanation].1 These are just a small selection of the hundreds of extraordinarily precise predictions in the Bible, made centuries before their fulfilment. The probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled by random chance is a statistical impossibility. These fulfilled predictive prophecies of the Bible provide powerful evidence for the Bible’s supernatural inspiration; they declare that this is no ordinary book.
- TRANSCRIPTION RELIABILITY
Liberals and sceptics claim that the transcription of the Bible through the ages was fraught with errors, so that we can have no confidence that the words that are printed today are what was originally written. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 11 Qumran Caves in 1946 (and some in 1956) put a significant dent in that argument. These scrolls are widely regarded as the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, and include the oldest known Biblical manuscripts, dating back over 2,000 years. This predates the earliest previous manuscripts by 1,000 years. Significantly, when the older manuscripts are compared to the later ones, only very slight differences in spelling and grammar are indicated. The Dead Sea Scrolls pose a major problem to the hypothesis of textual unreliability.
I want to ask you an important question. Do you believe in an all-powerful God who is able to communicate a clear, unequivocal message to mankind? Is the God you believe in powerful enough to protect the writing of the His Word from error, to ensure that the Bible that we hold in our hands today is the Bible he intended us to receive? Because if you hold the view that the Bible contains error and uninspired human interpolations, then whoever it is whom you call “God” is not really God at all – because He can’t even get the transmission of a book right!
- ARCHAEOLOGICAL VERIFICATION
In his work, “Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence to Support the Historicity of the Bible”, Dr Paul L. Maier writes, “Ever since scientific archaeology started a century and a half ago, the consistent pattern has been this: the hard evidence from the ground has borne out the biblical record again and again — and again. The Bible has nothing to fear from the spade.” He cites many examples of archaeological discoveries proving the Bible right and its critics wrong. For example, at the beginning of last century, the Hittites were unknown outside of the Bible, and historians claimed that this was an example of the Bible’s fanciful nature. However, in 1906, a Hittite city was uncovered east of Ankara, Turkey, along with manuscripts that provide detailed descriptions of Hittite culture. There are literally dozens of similar examples – where critics claimed that something in the Bible was unhistorical, only to have their criticism overturned by subsequent archaeological discoveries which validated the Biblical account. [For example – The Code of Hammurabi; The Nuzi Tablets; The Merneptah Stele; The Biblical cities of Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba and Lachish; Shishak’s Invasion of Judah (1 Kings 14); The Moabite Stone (2 Kings 3); Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (2 Kings 9–10); Burial Plaque of King Uzziah (2 Chron 26); Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription (2 Kings 20); The Sennacherib Prism (2 Kings 18-19); The Cylinder of Cyrus the Great (2 Chron 36:23)]2
- TRANSFORMED LIVES
The Bible claims to be transformative:
“All scripture is inspired by God, and is useful [effective] for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16)
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing even between soul and spirit, joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psa 19-7-8)
The Bible claims, of itself, to be endowed with God’s supernatural power to facilitate profound transformation in the lives of those who read it with an open heart. Millions of Christians testify that this claim has proven true in their own lives. The old adage is true: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. While sceptics may disparage this evidence as being purely subjective, yet, surely, the fact that tens of millions of people testify to the Bible’s life-changing power must be taken into account. In a court of law, just 2 or 3 witnesses providing corroborating subjective evidence is enough to secure a verdict.
Upon what do you base your beliefs and ethics? Are they based upon the inspired, authoritative Word of God? Or are they dictated by the changeable whims of society and your own confused thinking? If you start discarding parts of the Bible because they are inconvenient or difficult, where do you stop? How do you decide which bits are acceptable and which bits are not? I believe in a Creator God who has communicated clearly and unequivocally with humanity through His Word (and, of course, ultimately through His Son Jesus). I believe that the evidence for the inspiration and authority of the Bible is overwhelming, and I would be foolish in the extreme to ignore it, modify it or discard it because I think that I know better. God has spoken. Are you willing to listen?
HOLY BIBLE, WHOLLY TRUE
- Prediction Of The Year of Christ’s Death
While it wasn’t recognized until after the fact, one of the most precise predictions in Scripture gives the very year in which the Christ would die. Daniel was speaking of both the exile of Israel and the atonement for sin when he recorded a prayer of confession for the sins of his people (9:4–19) and a vision in response in which the angel Gabriel gave to Daniel the following foresight (9:24–26):
Seventy “sevens” are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One [Messiah], the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens,” and sixty-two “sevens.” . . . After the sixty-two “sevens,” the Anointed One will be cut off.