I was encouraged because a handful of you asked questions after the sermon a few weeks ago when I talked about why we can trust our Bibles. I thought it would be helpful to go into a bit more detail for why we can trust the Bibles we have. So, I am taking the next two months to give you ten reasons why you can trust your Bible.
1. God Uses Language
We live in a time when many are skeptical of language. Academics question where language come from, is it simply a human invention? Philosophers ask where the meaning of a word lies. Can we trust language? All these questions are relevant to Christians because the fundamental way we know anything about God is through words. Scripture is God’s word to us. So can we trust the message?
If words are simply a human invention, then perhaps words would not be a reliable way to understand God. Words would just be descriptions of what God said, but not what God actually said. But as Christians we can have confidence in the words of Scripture, because language finds its origin in God himself. How did God create the world? By speaking. (Gen 1). How is Jesus described? As the word of God made flesh (John 1). We can trust language to be a reliable way for God to communicate to us because language was created by God himself.
But you may ask, what about the fact that we read our Bibles in English while the Scriptures were written mostly in Hebrew and Greek? Can we trust our English Bibles? Yes, we can. Consider Isaiah 55:11 where God says:
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
This passage describes God’s words in a remarkable way–that they always accomplish their purposes. Now combine this thought with Jesus’s command to take the Gospel to all nations (Acts 1:8). The command presupposes that Scripture must be translated. With these two ideas, we can conclude that God will work through translations of Scripture to accomplish the purposes of his word. Even though we read our Bibles in a language much different that the language Jesus spoke, we can have confidence that God’s word will accomplish his purposes in our lives.
2. God Says The Bible is Trustworthy
Does God believe our Bibles are trustworthy? Yes, because he shows that all of Scripture, even though written by humans, are still God’s words. It is not just the red letters that we should say came from God, but every word in our Bible is God’s word. Consider the following passages:
2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”
This verse equates Scripture (the written Old and New Testaments) with God’s very own breath. When we speak, we breathe out. Scripture is the breathed-out word from God’s own mouth. This means that the words we have in Scripture are not just someone's individual interpretation of what God said, but the words of Scripture are actually God’s very words.
Matt 19:4-5, “[Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”
Note that in this passage, Jesus says that God (the one who created Adam and Eve) said, “Therefore a man shall leave....” Now if you look up this passage in Genesis 2:24 you will find that God did not actually say these things, but they were the words of the human author of Genesis. Now, was Jesus mistaken? Certainly not! Even though a human wrote these words, he was inspired by God (just as he observed in 2 Tim 3:16) and that means that Jesus believed what Scripture says is what God says, even if the words are not in quotes.
3. Jesus Trusted It
Some Bibles have red letters, to indicate the words Jesus spoke. People seem to intrinsically be interested in these words of Jesus. So then, if we are interested in Jesus’s words, a helpful question about the reliability of Scripture is what did Jesus say about Scripture itself?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that he came not to abolish the law or prophets, but to fulfill them. The law and prophets were general categories to describe many of the Old Testament books. In Matt 6:18 Jesus says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” While Jesus only mentions the law, he likely still has in view most, if not all of the Old Testament and he is saying that the smallest little details of the written word of God are important. He references an iota, which is the smallest greek letter (it looked something like a comma) and a dot, which probably referred to a small marking in Hebrew, something similar to the dot of an ‘i’. Jesus shows that even the smallest details of Scripture are reliable and to be trusted.
4. The New Testament Is Built Upon The Apostles’ Foundation
In Acts we learn the job of the Apostles was to be witness to Jesus to “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The question arises, “how were the apostles to be witnesses to the ends of the earth?” For they never made it to North or South America. But in one sense haven’t they? Their records were written down in the books of the New Testament and so they continue to be witnesses to Christ today. Jesus intended for Scripture to be written down, so it could actually make it to the ends of the earth after the apostles had died. This is what Paul means when he says the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20). If we want to know the true Christian message, we need to look back to the teaching of the apostles. Where in the teaching of the apostles? In the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.
After looking at some theological reason, let’s now move to some practical and technical reasons for why we can we trust our Bibles.
5. There are thousands.... or millions of manuscripts
There are by far more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other historical document. Because we have so many manuscripts we can be confident that we have the original text of the New Testament. People often have a double standard when it comes to historical documents, tending to trust other historical documents more than Scripture. Yet just by looking at the number of manuscripts we have, it would be logical to put more trust in the reliability of the New Testament simply because of how many copies we have of it.
Document Number of Known Manuscripts
Livy’s History of Rome 27
Thucydides’s History 20
Herodotus’s History 75
Plato’s Tetralogies 200
Homer’s Illiad 2000
New Testament 5,700 greek, 10,000 latin, more than a million quotations of Scripture from the early church fathers
Next Month we will look at the next five reasons we can trust our Bibles. They are:
1.While there are thousands of variations, they are not significant.
2.The manuscripts are geographically separated.
3.There are scientific principles used to figure out the original text
4.The manuscripts are very old.
5.The Books of the Bible were settled early on.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, I’d love to meet up you. Just contact me and we can arrange something.