Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.
These words were said by King David around the tenth century B.C. From that time until now, there have been millions of people who claim to love the Bible. Is the Bible “very pure” and does it stand up to higher criticism? Has it been accurately passed on from early history to our day? Is it credible and, if so, just what does it have to say?
We believe that the Bible is God’s book for man. Its authorship is reliable and it has been passed on to us accurately from the time of its first writing. It has both archeological and prophetical credibility to support its claims. It has a message of good news for mankind.
AUTHORSHIP & INTERNAL STRENGTHS
This great book consists of sixty-six smaller books. It was penned by forty different people over a span of fifteen hundred years. Some of its authors were fishermen and farmers, others were kings and highly educated people. One man was a medical doctor. But is there evidence to give them credibility, or are they just relating old myths? Let’s examine both the Old and the New Testament on this point.
The Old Testament is comprised of thirty-nine books. These books contain history, poetry, prophecy and theology. Let’s focus for a moment on the history. Critics of the Bible have tried to disprove it by searching for archeological evidence supporting their hypothesis, but the evidence leans the other way.
1) Critics used to say that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because there was no written language at that time. Since 1974, archaeologists have dug up seventeen thousand tablets at Tell Mardikh in Northern Syria which prove that there were written records at least a thousand years before Moses lived.
2) One thousand Mesopotamian tablets were uncovered in 1925 and are known as the Nuzi Tablets. These records give us background information on several early biblical patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
3) Cuneiform tablets from the Assyrian emperors verify such biblical characters as Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Menahem, Hoshea, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah and Jehoaiachin.
4) The ancient biblical city of Jericho has been discovered.
5) Critics used to claim that the Hittite civilization, mentioned in the Bible, never existed because there was no evidence for it. So much evidence has been dug up on the Hittites since then, that you can now get a doctorate in Hittite studies from the University of Chicago.
This is a brief look at some of the evidence. Much more could be said on this point of archeology. The volumes that have been written stand boldly in defense of the reliability and accuracy of the Old Testament. But what of the New Testament? Who wrote it and what is its claim to credibility? The New Testament was written, for the most part, by disciples of Jesus. Being His disciples, they were eyewitnesses of His life and heard exactly what He taught.
Here is what Peter tells us:
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
2 Peter 1.16
Also, the Apostle John writes:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1.1-3
The things that were “from the beginning” have been handed down to us by eyewitnesses who tell of what they heard, saw and what they touched with their hands. They were there at Jesus’ baptism, and they were there when He healed the sick and opened blind eyes. They saw the resurrected Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 15.3-8).
The strength of the disciples’ testimony runs deeper still. All of the twelve disciples, except one, were martyred for their claims. John, the one who wasn’t martyred, was greatly persecuted too. Instead of execution, he was punished by being exiled to the island of Patmos for the rest of his life, all because he would not renounce his claims of Christian belief. Some would point out that other people throughout history have died for their religion as well. Consider the difference, however, in the case of the early Christian martyrs. While other religious leaders also have taught a theology about God and moral values, these Christian disciples were giving testimony to an historical event, namely, that they had seen the resurrected Christ. The question is this: Wouldn’t some of the disciples, when faced with death, have admitted that their testimony was false, if it indeed was? Some might argue that Judas did and that is why he betrayed Christ. This is not true as shown by his own words; “… I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ …” (Matthew 27.4). Also, note that Judas died by suicide, never witnessed the resurrection, and never wrote any of the Bible.
THE TRANSMISSION OF THE TEXTS
Even if what the biblical writers said was accurate, how can we know for sure that what they said hasn’t been lost over time? Or, in other words, how do we know that we have an accurate copy of the original books of the Bible? Let’s first look at the Old Testament.
When the books of the Old Testament were composed, they were written on papyrus. This material deteriorated quickly and, consequently, many copies of the original needed to be made. This was done by a specialized group of men known as scribes. It was of extreme importance to the scribes that they duplicated the original exactly as it was written.
Meticulous devotion to duplication is evident in the Masoretic text, of which the existing copies are dated circa 1000 AD. This great copy of the Hebrew Old Testament was done by a group of scribes known as the Masoretics, who, after a copy had been made, counted everything to make sure that not so much as one word was added or subtracted; “They counted, for example, the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurs in each book; they pointed out the middle letter of the Pentateuch and the middle letter of the whole Hebrew Bible, and made even more detailed calculations than these.”2
Basically, everything that could be counted was counted, even the number of letters in every book!
Another group of scribes were the Talmudists (AD 100-500). According to Samuel Davidson, some of the procedures that they used when copying the originals were: “A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals… every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex. The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 or more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of 30 letters. The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless… An authentic copy must be the exampler, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate. No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, …Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; between every book, three lines. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line;… Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.”3
Another ancient manuscript of the Old and New Testament is the Peshita. It is written entirely in Aramaic. An exact date of this work is uncertain, but the British museum contains copies that date back to the fifth and seventh centuries. Some of these copies were written without the use of vowels, which means they were written prior to the fifth century when the vowel system was invented. A Bible translator, George M. Lamsa, in commenting on the Peshita, says these words; “The biblical manuscripts were carefully and zealously handed down from one generation to another and kept in the massive stone walls of the ancient churches and in caves. They were written on parchment and many of them survive to the present day. When these texts were copied by expert scribes, they were carefully examined for accuracy before they were dedicated and permitted to be read in churches. Even one missing letter would render the text void.”4
So, as with the Masoretic text and the work of the Talmudists, similarly, the copiers of the Peshita were diligent, faithful and meticulous in their work .
An even earlier manuscript is the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew text originally translated in Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC). We have fragmented portions from as far back as 100 BC, and complete copies that were copied in the fourth century AD, still in existence today.
The accuracy of the Old Testament has also been affirmed in recent times by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Before this discovery in 1947, the oldest existing Hebrew Old Testament manuscript was the Masoretic text, dated between 925 and 1008 AD. The Dead Sea Scrolls gave us fragments of almost every book in the Old Testament, many dating back to 150 BC, which are over a thousand years older. Probably the most important portions of these scrolls were two complete copies of the book of Isaiah.5
Here is what textual critic, Gleason Archer, has to say; “Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known, (AD 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations of spelling.”6
The New Testament also stands strong under textual criticism. When any piece of old literature is being investigated as to whether or not it is historically accurate, a series of tests-called an historiography-is done. This examines several things, such as the number of manuscripts (hand written copies) of the piece that are in existence, and also, the span of time between the original document and the existing manuscripts.
Let’s examine the number of manuscripts we have of the New Testament. In doing so, we find that there are more manuscripts of the New Testament than of any other piece of literature ever studied. There are 24,633 partial or complete copies in existence today. Second to the New Testament, in this area of ancient literature, is the Iliad which was written by Homer and is considered one of the great works of ancient literature. We have 643 surviving manuscripts. This is considered high. We have seven copies of Plato’s Tetralogies. There are forty-nine of Aristotle’s and only eight of Herodotus’ historical writings.7
As well as the biblical manuscripts, we also have writings from the early church fathers that contain countless quotations of the New Testament. According to J. Harold Greenlee, these quotes “are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts.”8
Sir David Dalrymple further explored this topic and concluded that even if we had no copies of the New Testament, we could piece back together all but eleven verses of it from these quotes, all taken from a period of time no later than the third century.9 Just from two of the fathers living till 220 AD, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, we have 9,400 quotations. By 235 AD we have 1,300 more from Hippolytus. Nineteen years more brings us to the time of Origen, who added another whopping 18,000 quotations! Cyprian died just a brief four years later, leaving another 1,030 quotations.10 Prior to the council of Nicea, (AD 325), we have some 32,000 quotations of scripture from the writings of Christians.11 If we include all the early church fathers, that number reaches to more than a staggering 86,400!12
We have said that the second great test of an historiography is the time span between the original writing and the date of the manuscripts that we have. The time span is shorter in the case of the New Testament than in any other document of antiquity.
A.T. Robinson was a scholar who set out to prove that the New Testament was written in the late first to early second century. After examining the evidence, he radically changed his mind. He went on to write a book called “Redating the New Testament,” in which he argued that the New Testament, in its entirety, was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, only fourty years after Christ’s death.13
This short time span between the autographs and existing copies of the writings cannot be found in writings of other long time religions. For example, the teachings of Buddha were not written down until five hundred years after his death. Nor is this kind of brief span common in works of ancient classical writings or in secular history. The Iliad, which we mentioned before, also has a five hundred year gap from when it was originally written to our earliest copy. In the case of Plato’s Tetralogies, that gap is 1200 years.14
Sir Fredrick Kenyon, who was the past director and principal librarian of the British Museum, and probably the greatest textual critic of the twentieth century, said this:
The interval between the dates of the original composition (of the New Testament) and the earliest extanct evidence becomes so small as to be, in fact, negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established. 15
So, what are we to conclude? After examining the Old Testament, we saw the meticulous rituals the Masoretic and Talmudist scribes carried out when copying the originals. As well, we discussed ancient manuscripts such as the Peshita and the Septuagint. Finally, we discussed the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular the Isaiah manuscripts, which are one thousand years older than our previous earliest Hebrew texts and yet consistent with our copies. The New Testament, we discovered, exists in over twenty-four thousand manuscripts, giving it overwhelming textual credibility, especially in comparison to other ancient writings. We also observed the remarkable brevity in time span from when the original New Testament books were written to our earliest existing copies. For these reasons, we believe we have an accurate copy of the Holy Bible.
EVIDENCE OF FULFILLED PROPHECY
We have defended the accuracy of the Bible and its careful transmission through time. But what is there that links it to God? How can we say that it is God’s Word? We do say that it is God’s Word and that there is reasonable evidence to prove it. We said earlier that the Old Testament contained history, poetry and prophecy. Now let’s take a closer look at Bible prophecy, and specifically, prophecy concerning the Christ. John said, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; …” (1 John 5.9).
The Old Testament, as we have said, contains many books of prophecy. These prophecies are about many things, such as, the fate of certain nations, events in Israel’s future and of a coming Christ who would save the people. Jesus said, “…’These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24.44).
There are over three hundred specific prophecies, first written down over four hundred years before His birth, that have been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Let’s examine a few of them.
The prophecy that the Christ would come from the lineage of Jacob (see Numbers 24.17) was fulfilled in Luke 3.23,34. That He would be of the house of David (see Jeremiah 23.5) was fulfilled in Luke 3.23,31. That He would be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5.2) was fulfilled in Matthew 2.1. That people would divide up His garments and cast lots for them (see Psalm 22.18) was fulfilled in John 19.23,24. That He would be violently killed (see Isaiah 53.5-12) was fulfilled in Matthew 27.26,35.
Josh McDowell compares these prophecies to an address. For a moment, think of your street address. It has seven pieces of information: your name, house number, street number or name, the city, the province or state, your postal code and the country that you live in. With these seven pieces of information someone could locate you from anywhere on the earth. These seven things together single you out from every other person on the face of the earth. In the same way, God wrote an address to identify His Son from everyone in history past, or history future, by recording hundreds of specific items of information that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.16
Professor Peter W. Stoner worked out the mathematical probabilities of whether or not a person could accidentally fulfill the prophecies of the Bible concerning the Christ. The results of his research showed that for any man to fulfill just eight of the three hundred prophecies worked out to a probability of 1 times 10 to the 17th power. That is 1 in every 100,000,000,000,000,000 times. This worked out to be the same probability as if, after covering the whole state of Texas with silver dollars, you were to take one silver dollar and mark it, and then a blindfolded man, on his first pick, would pick that checked silver dollar from all the others.17
The American Scientific Affiliation had this to say concerning the evidence; “The manuscript for ‘Science Speaks’ has been reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members, and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included, is based upon principals of probability which are thoroughly sound, and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.”18
We have stated that Jesus fulfilled over three hundred prophecies. We listed a few of them and compared them to a person’s address. We looked at the calculations of Professor Peter Stoner, that the probability of only eight of the three hundred Messianic prophecies being fulfilled in one man worked out to one times ten to the seventeenth power. We also read the American Scientific Affiliation’s support of Professor Stoner’s calculations. Remember, if we accept the “witness of men,” the “witness of God” is greater. God has witnessed to the inspiration of the Bible by speaking to the prophets in the Old Testament and fulfilling the prophecies in the New Testament in the life of Jesus Christ.
JESUS’ VIEW OF THE SCRIPTURES
Another valuable question to ask is, what did Jesus say about the Scriptures that we call the Bible? First, let’s divide the Bible into three sections; the Old Testament, the words of Jesus and the teachings of His disciples.
1. The Old Testament
Jesus Christ had great reverence for the Scriptures of the Old Testament. He referred to historical accounts in the Old Testament as factual events. Some examples would be: His reference to the murders of Abel and Zechariah, in Luke 11.50-51; His reference to the account of Noah and the great flood, in Matthew 24.36-39; His reference, in John 3.14, to the account of Moses in the wilderness, lifting up the serpent on a pole; His reference, in Matthew 12.39-41, to the account of the prophet Jonah being three days and three nights in the belly of a fish, and later preaching to the people of Nineveh. He also refers to the account of King David eating sacred showbread and sharing it with his men in Matthew 12.3-4.
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for a lack of knowledge of the Scriptures and a failure to practice them. (See Matthew 22.29 and Matthew 23.23).
Jesus used Old Testament Scripture to teach spiritual truth. Firstly, He taught truth concerning Himself; “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24.27. See also John 5.39).
Secondly, He taught truth concerning future judgments; “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30). In this scripture Jesus is giving solemn warning of His Father’s judgment to come by reminding us of these great and fearful acts of God which occurred in Old Testament days.
As well, Jesus openly declared Old Testament writers to be inspired by God, for example:
Another example would be; “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place …” (Matthew 24.15).
Jesus appealed to the authority of the Old Testament by frequently saying, “… It is written, …” (Matthew 4.10 and see Luke 4.4). This comes from the Greek, “gegraptai”19 -“it stands written.”19 Thus Jesus is referring to the Scriptures as “the permanent unchangeable witness of the eternal God committed to writing for our instruction.”19
Jesus also said:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
2. The Words of Jesus
We said that our second division of the Bible would be the words of Jesus Christ. So then, what did Jesus say about the authority of His own words? Jesus emphatically stated, “…’My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. ” (John 7.16-17). Also, Jesus said, “… the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6.63). On one occasion, Jesus rebuked a crowd of unbelieving Jews with this statement; “I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” (John 8.26). The same crowd later reacted with hostility, to which He replied, “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; …” (John 8.40).
3. The Teachings of His Disciples
Our final division of the Bible would be the teachings of His disciples. So then, what were Jesus’ comments on the authority of His disciple’s teachings? First of all, Jesus commanded His disciples to teach all the things which He had taught them. He commissioned them with these words; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28.19-20). We further see that they were sent not only to teach, but also, to teach with Jesus’ authority; “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’” (John 20.21).
To aid them in this task, Jesus promised them the enabling of the Holy Spirit; “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. ” (John 14.26).
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
In summary, from all these verses, we see Jesus’ great reverence for the Scriptures we now know as the Holy Bible. He not only referred to historical events in the Old Testament as factual, but He taught spiritual truth from them. Jesus rebuked religious leaders for their lack of knowledge of, and their lack of practicing of, the Scriptures. He openly declared Old Testament authors to be speaking by the Holy Spirit. He then stated that His own teaching was not His, but rather, that of His heavenly Father and that His words were spirit and life. Further, He commissioned His disciples to teach all of His instructions and promised the aid of the Holy Spirit.
MENTOR, MIRROR, MAP
The Bible is a mentor, a mirror and a map in that it teaches, reveals and guides any truth-seeking soul who is searching for God.
The Bible teaches us many things about God Himself. Firstly, it tells us that He is all-powerful; “’Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name;” (Jeremiah 32.17-18).
God is frequently called Almighty (see Genesis 17.1/ Revelation 4.8). He has all power and there is nothing that is too difficult for Him to accomplish. He is more than able to hear the cries of a desperate, repentant soul and rescue that soul from the bonds of sin.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short
That it cannot save;
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear.
He is without restriction, except that He restricts Himself to the use of His power only for justice and righteousness. His every action is consistent with His holy nature. No man or demon can overthrow His rule. Satan and his demons are fully aware that God exists and they tremble in fear (see James 2.19).
God is greater.
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
Secondly, the Bible tells us that God is all-knowing, for example; “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4.13). He has total understanding of all things. His knowledge is complete without the discovery of facts.
The Lord examines the hearts of all men and women; “…’You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men …” (Acts 1.24).
As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.
1 Chronicles 28.9
God’s holiness is more than His perfect record of moral excellence. It is a radiant quality that permeates His whole being. The word “holy” comes from the Hebrew word, kadash-meaning to set apart, to separate, or to cut off. The idea is that God is separate from all that is evil or corrupt. “There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. ” (1 Samuel 2.2).
God must be approached with awesome reverence. Jesus opens the Lord’s Prayer with “…Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6.9 KJV). Scripture states that “…Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111.9).
We learn of God’s holiness from passages such as Exodus, chapter 19, which tells the account of Israel’s meeting with God at Mount Sinai. Scripture records that God called Moses to speak to the Israelites, commanding them to obey Him, and that in three days time He was going to come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. He warned them to prepare by consecrating themselves. When that day came, the Israelite nation found themselves at the base of the mountain that God was descending upon. There were thunderings and lightnings and a thick cloud of darkness on top of the mountain. “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” (Vs 18-19). The LORD came down onto the mountaintop at its highest point and called Moses to come up to where He was. Then He sent him back with a warning for the people that they should not get too close to the LORD, and again He reminded them that they were to consecrate themselves. Next, the LORD called Moses to return to the mountaintop where He gave him the Ten Commandments.
Because God is so holy, it is an overwhelming experience to encounter Him. It is a necessary thing to consecrate ourselves before entering His presence, lest we die. In fact, after the Israelites saw the lightnings and smoke, and after they heard the thunderings, the trumpet blast and the voice of the LORD, they were very frightened. They were frightened to the point that they told Moses to meet with the LORD personally, and to simply relay God’s message to them so that this would not happen again.
‘Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before You,
For Your righteous acts have been revealed.’
Lastly, the Bible tells us that God does not change. People may tell you that God is different today than in Old Testament times. However, God’s word tells us; “ ‘For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3.6).
There is nothing about God’s character or power that is subject to change. He neither increases nor diminishes in His perfection. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1.17).
The Bible is a mirror in that it lets us see into our own heart. Or said another way, it “… and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12). God takes the truth of the Bible and presses it upon the consciences of men and women. In doing this, our hearts are revealed to us. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter was preaching to a crowd of people. His message was loaded with Scripture and he confronted them, holding them responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. The Bible then tells us that his hearers were “…pierced to the heart…” (Acts 2.37). That is to say that God’s Word, the Bible, when used rightly, not only registers in the mind but convicts the heart and penetrates the very soul. There is then a reaction in the heart to God’s truth.
So what then does this mirror show us of ourselves?
The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind, …
So firstly, we are told that our heart is deceitful. It is possible for us to deceive ourselves. It is possible to live in denial. It is possible to tell a lie enough times that we come to believe it ourselves. There is nothing that our heart is more prone to deceive us over, than our standing with God.
Secondly, it tells us that our heart is desperately wicked. It was Jesus Himself who said, “And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’” (Mark 7.20-23).
From this we see that sins reside in the hearts and thoughts of men and women. Jesus on another occasion asked, “…’Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9.4). But those sins quickly move from the heart to the mouth and express themselves verbally; “…For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12.34). It is these sins that defile a man or woman.
The Bible is a map in that it points us to Jesus. It doesn’t simply present to us a philosophy, theory or ideology, but rather, it presents to us the person of Jesus Christ, who Himself can forgive, save and heal a lost soul. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5.39-40).
The Old Testament prophets consistently taught that a person’s sins would be forgiven when they believed in Jesus (see Acts 10.43). However, those who fail to follow the directions of this great spiritual map end up lost in the darkness of sin.
The apostle Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy, telling him that the Scriptures made him wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3.15). Dear reader, these same Scriptures, the Holy Bible, can make you wise and ready for salvation if you will follow their lead and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said:
So far, we have discussed evidence in support of the Bible, but, having established it’s credibility, just what does it have to say? What is its basic message? The Bible has a message of good news for mankind!
The Bible describes a serious problem and the good news is that God has provided a solution. The Bible starts by telling about how God created the world and all that is in it (see Genesis, chapter 1). It shows God’s pleasure in creating and giving life (see Genesis 1.25). God made man and created him in His own image (see Genesis 1.26-27).
When God created man, He gave him a free will so that man would be able to choose to follow God and be friends with God. He also had the ability to disobey God (see Genesis 2.16-17), resulting in misery and eventually, death (see Romans 6.23). He could use his will to follow God and please his Creator, being in harmony with God, with himself and with his fellow man. Instead, he chose to leave God’s way (see Genesis, chapter 3). Mankind has followed in Adam’s pattern and example (see Romans 3.23/Ecclesiastes 7.20/Psalm 14.2-3). On the outside man is composed but, on the inside, he is broken and lost. There is a restlessness in man during his lifetime, and a greater judgment after death (see John 12.48/Acts 17.31/Romans 2.16). The relationship Adam once had with God was broken and mankind, in large part desires to avoid God too (see John 3.19-20/ Romans 1.21-23).
The Bible teaches that God loved this world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to make a change in the situation (see John 3.16). He walked among us. He was perfectly holy and without sin (see Hebrews 4.15/2 Corinthians 5.21). He healed the sick (see John 5.1-9), opened blind eyes (see Matthew 9.27-30), and fed hungry people (see John 6.1-11). He taught the Scriptures and prophesied that He would be handed over to the chief priests and be crucified. John the Baptist made a profound statement by calling Jesus “…the Lamb of God…” (John 1.29). This depicted Christ as a sacrificial lamb, which, up until that time, had been killed on an alter in a ceremony that represented God’s forgiveness for man through transferring the person’s guilt penalty of death to the lamb. About His death, Christ said, “…But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12.27). He was betrayed by a friend and handed over to be crucified, in fulfillment of prophecy. The death sentence due mankind, instead fell on Him. He died as our substitute (see Galatians 3.13/ Acts 20.28/1 Peter 3.18). Three days later, He was literally raised from the dead (see Luke 24.1-7/ Matthew 28.1-6).
So the problem is our sin and our broken relationship with God. The problem is on our part. You say that’s judgmental! But really, that is hope. That is good news, because if the problem was on God’s part, or originated in God, then there would be nothing we could do about it. Yet, because the problem originates in us, there is something we can do about it. In one sense, we cannot save ourselves, but God in His mercy has made a way for us to be saved. We can throw ourselves upon His mercy, turn from our selfish sinful ways, trust and believe His gospel; then cry out to Him with a plea for forgiveness and a surrender to His Lordship. “…’The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1.15).
When we do this, our spirit will come alive. The Bible calls this being “born again” (see John 3.3-5/1 John 5.1). Jesus said, “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3.7). This new birth will result in a change of lifestyle and is a choice in favor of following God (see 1 Peter 1.15). We need to consciously, by a decision of our will, call out to Him and put our trust in Him. The Bible says that “…Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10.13).
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
A PLEA TO THE SKEPTIC
Some will say, “I still do not believe.” Dear friend, the purpose of this booklet is to show beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Bible is God’s book for man and that we do have an accurate copy of it. Before you dismiss the evidence we have provided, look into your own heart and ask yourself, “Is the real reason why I do not believe the Bible because I do not wish to be accountable to a God who sets such high standards of right and wrong and requires my obedience to them?” You may say, “You’re judging me.” No, we are just asking a question. What would stop you from asking yourself this question and deeply and honestly answering it?
What does your conscience say when you look into the mirror of God’s Word, and hear Jesus say to you, “…’That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.’” (Mark 7.20-23)?
How will all of your objections sound when one day you stand at the foot of His great throne and He reviews your entire life? Every action and every desire He will examine and then He will reveal your motives, whether they were selfish or not. What if all of your objections are found to be ones of stubborn pride? What if the same Gospel which you rejected produced life, hope and forgiveness in the lives of others who humbly repented and accepted it? Some will say, “I still have my pride.” We ask you, what has your pride ever gotten you? What has it done for your marriage? What has it done for your relationship with your parents? What has it done for your relationship with your children? How many friendships has it cost you? Friend, its greatest consequence is still ahead of you. But the grace and love of Jesus Christ can change the outcome on that day.
What is your response when you hear of His love for you in dying on a cross and rising again? What is your response as He tugs on your heart and conscience and calls you by name to repentance and faith in Him?
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 KJV
Out of all the books that one can read, a book like the Bible will never be found. It is so rich and deep that you can learn new things every time you read it. We have examined a lot of evidence. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are credible. Archeology applauds the Bible. The New Testament was written primarily by eyewitnesses, all of whom were greatly persecuted for their claims. All but one died a martyr’s death rather than deny their testimony. The manuscripts that we have, of both the Old and New Testaments, are accurate. We have in existence copies of the book of Isaiah that are ninety-five percent word for word identical with the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are over 24,000 manuscripts (partial or complete) of the New Testament, making it the number one piece of ancient writing for manuscript credibility. Also, the time gap between the original writings of the New Testament and our copies is remarkably short.
We know that the “testimony of God” is greater than the “ testimony of men” and God has spoken to this world by prophesying in the Old Testament and fulfilling prophecy in the New. Over three hundred specific prophecies were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. We learned that the probability of just eight of these prophecies being fulfilled in the life of any man were very slim.
The Bible is God’s book for man! As a mentor, it teaches us the holiness of God. As a mirror, it reveals our hearts and in its pages we see ourselves for who we really are. As a map, it points us to Jesus Christ and guides us through repentance and faith. What have we done with the free will that God has given us? The decisions that we have made, where have they taken us? We see that God loved us so much that He sent His Son to earth. The Lord Jesus Christ died in our place, as our substitute, and victoriously rose from the dead three days later.
The Bible calls us to place our trust in Christ and be forgiven. The deep stains of sin can be taken away by Jesus. The Bible promises that all who repent and genuinely call on His name will be saved. God sets before us life and death and commands us to choose life.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, Deuteronomy 30.19
This book reveals the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here too, heaven is opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good is its design, and the glory of God is its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and remembered for ever. It involves highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents. Owned, it is riches; studied, it is wisdom; trusted, it is salvation; loved, it is character; and obeyed, it is power.
From The Gideon Bible
1) Glueck, Nelson, RIVERS IN THE DESERT (Philadelphia, PA.: Jewish Publications of America, 1969), Page 31.
2) Bruce, F.F., THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS, Rev. Ed. (Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963), page 117.
3) Davidson, Samuel, HEBREW TEXT OF THE OLD TESTAMENT 2nd ed. (London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1859), Page 89 as quoted by: Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix, A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE (Chicago, Ill.:Moody Press, 1968), Page 241.
4) Lamsa, George M, HOLY BIBLE FROM THE ANCIENT EASTERN TEXTS (A.J. Holman Co. 1933), Introduction page v.
5) Story, Dan, DEFENDING YOUR FAITH (Nashville, Tenn.:Thomas Nelson Inc., 1992), Page 35.
6) Archer, Gleason L. Jr., A SURVEY OF OLD TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1974), Page 25
7) McDowell, Josh, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, vol. 1 (San Bernardino, CA.: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), Page 42.
8) Greenlee, J. Harold, INTRODUCTION TO NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL CRITICISM (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), Page 54.
9) Dalrymple, Sir David, as quoted by Josh McDowell, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, vol. 1 (San Bernardino, CA.: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), Page 51.
10) Angus, Joseph, as quoted by McDowell, EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT, vol. 1, (San Bernardino, CA.: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), Page 51.
11) Geisler, Norman L., and William E. Nix, A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE (Chicago, Ill.:Moody Press, 1968), Page 325.
12) Jaganay, Leo, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXTUAL CRITICISM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Trans. by B.V. Miller (London: Sands and Co., 1937), Page 48.
13) Robinson, John, REDATING THE NEW TESTAMENT (Philadelphia, PA.: Westminster, 1976).
14) Story, Dan, DEFENDING YOUR FAITH (Nashville, Tenn.:Thomas Nelson Inc., 1992), Page 40.
15) Kenyon, Sir Fredrick, THE BIBLE AND ARCHEOLOGY, as quoted in Josh McDowell,
EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1974), Page 41.
16) McDowell, Josh, A SKEPTIC’S QUEST, Audio Cassette, Jesus Northwest, Salem, Or.
17) Stoner, Peter W., M.S., and Robert C. Newman, S.T.M.,Ph.D., SCIENCE SPEAKS (Chicago Ill.: Moody Press, 1976), Page 4.
18) Artzler, Harold, as quoted in SCIENCE SPEAKS (Chicago Ill.: Moody Press, 1976), Page 4.
19) Geisler, Norman G., ed. John W. Wenham, INERRANCY (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), Page 9.Taken from Inerrancy by Robert D. Preus et all. Copyright © 1980 by Zondervan. Use by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture references are taken from:
“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org)
Scriptures marked KJV are taken from the King James version of the Holy Bible