Why Should I Trust that the Bible is God’s Word?
Part One: Is it from the Apostles?
II Tim 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
There are two main questions:
- Does what we have come from the Apostles of Jesus? This is a historical question.
- Is what we have inspired by God? Is it true? Should we trust the Apostles?
This week we will work on the first of these two issues. Because, this is where the scholarship spends its time and effort.
If what we have comes from the Apostles, then we should take the claims of Scripture seriously. If we don’t believe that what we have comes from the Apostles, then there is no reason to take the claims of the New Testament seriously.
Most of the “Biblical Scholarship” in secular places in the past two hundred years has been very skeptical about whether or not what we have in the NT has come to us from the Apostles. (It is my contention that the reason for this is a materialist worldview.) If we don’t have the testimony of the Apostles, then we don’t have the direct historical record of anything relative to Jesus. Do you see that? Now, this is a historical question, NOT a philosophical one. But if we do have the testimony of the Apostles, then we have to take their claims seriously. They said God became a man, was killed and rose again from the dead. If a person is killed and rises again from the dead, this is a strong indication that they are divine.
- The Sign for the skeptic
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
Luke 11: 29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.
Matt 12: 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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.
The question of their testimony. If this is a made up story, then we don’t have any need to consider the historical reality of the event of the Resurrection. Do you see that? Jesus comes right out and says that the Resurrection is THE sign. But, if you don’t believe the gospel narratives are reflections of actual historical events, then there is NO SIGN.
- Objections to the Historical nature of the New Testament
- There are lots of miracles. I don’t see miracles like that.
- definition of a miracle:
Dictionary: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. God controls whether or not miracles occur. God is not needy and says there is enough revelation in nature for you to recognize His existence and character. God says He draws people to Jesus. God says sin darkens the understanding in progressive ways.
- not all people see miracles
- some people see miracles
Raise your hand if you have had an extraordinary event happen in your life that you believe was God intervening in your affairs. Was it like Jesus walking on water?
- If God is real… Then He can do whatever He wants!
- Most miracles in Scripture function as signs
- Miracles are not enough. John 6
Miracles still require faith! Because without faith it is impossible to please God.
- Miracles that happen all the time get a different name.
And then we take that away from God because it happens all the time. This issue is NEVER going away. Not until we see God like we do others. And if you require that before you are willing to submit to God, then you are going to hell.
- Jesus did not write anything down.
Everything that Jesus did or said was filtered through others. This is a fact. It is also a fact about all reality. Everything that you experience is filtered through you.
Matt 16: 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
John 14: 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 16: 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
II Peter 3: 16 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.
I Thes 2: 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
- The Bible wasn’t compiled until the late 300’s AD 393 the Synod of Hippo is the first “Official recognition of the 27 books of the NT that we have today. Well, that’s a long time. 360 years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well, it’s a long time, but it’s not a long time. We can’t read history backward. In fact, what we see when we look back at this history of lists of NT Scriptural books is much agreement of the texts selected in 393. They did not make Scripture, they acknowledged what the church had already used for hundreds of years as Scripture.
- There is no “church” that can in a uniform way define Scripture empire wide until Constantine becomes Emperor in 306 AD. You can’t have a decision by a group that does
not exist. It is also clear from the writings of the early church fathers, that there are books in existence that are considered to be of great theological significance. They are Scripture. And they are all written by Apostles or close associates of Apostles.
- There are many churches in different cities throughout the Roman empire. They have books that they are aware of and accept. The heretic Marcion in the early 2nd century had a very abbreviated NT canon, and his heresy provides motivation for a formalized defining of the texts which are Scripture.
For example: Marcion accepted Luke and most of Paul’s epistles. The fact that he was considered heretical and his rejection of the other gospels, Acts and other NT books was a problem shows that those books were in circulation and considered authoritative!
The Gospels, Acts, I John, Revelation and Paul’s letters are universally listed. (James, Hebrews, II and III John and Jude as well as I and II Peter are the ones that are occasionally omitted, but mostly included!)
- There are periodic times of persecution where Scriptures are captured and burned. This is an external historical force that helps people to decide which books are worth dying for.
- There are many other accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry that are not included in the canon
If we let the early Christians speak for us, then this objection evaporates. They did not accept books if they knew they were not written by an Apostle or close associate. You may hear people say all the time that folks claimed that they were an author but were not that person and that it was a commonly accepted practice. It was not accepted by the early church. You can’t find one instance of this.
You can view this as a negative or a positive. This is the reality expressed in the NT accounts. The Jewish people by and large rejected Jesus. The question is not why people would reject Him, but explain the rise of the Historical movement. Virgin Birth. Incarnate God. Despise and rejected. Crucified. These are tough sells!! What would cause someone to accept these ideas? Resurrection.
If there are other voices out there, then those documents that are accepted must pass at least some kind of decision making process. It’s not good to be undiscriminating!
Three main tests for canonicity:
- Written by an Apostle or close associate of an Apostle (Psuedopigraphal writings need not apply!)
- Accepted across different churches geographically
- Consistent with the rule of faith
- We don’t have any original manuscripts of any NT document. This is true. Nor do we have any original manuscripts of Homer, Sophocles, Caesar, Plato, Aristotle etc.
We don’t have ANY original manuscripts of the New Testament documents. Why is this? Various reasons.
- Written on perishable materials. A key point.
- No developed organization to keep things.
- Historical political pressure sought to suppress them.
- The whole process of New Testament development is just that.
(Paul wrote 4 or 5 letters to the Corinthians. We have 2.)
So, if there is no original, how can we be sure? Well, what do we need to be sure of? How about the Resurrection?
- There is rich manuscript authority of the NT books.
Both in terms of numbers of manuscripts and in terms of how close the manuscript is to the time it records.
What is a manuscript?
How many NT manuscripts are there?
Over 5,000 in Greek. Then tons of translations adding up to over 26,000 total.
How close to the time of the writing were the manuscripts?
Earliest complete NT manuscripts were early 300’s. (Why not earlier) The Codex “technology”: First described by the 1st-century AD Roman poet Martial, who praised its convenient use, the codex achieved numerical parity with the scroll around 300 AD, and had completely replaced it throughout what was by then a Christianized Greco-Roman world by the 6th century.
Earliest fragment: 125 AD or so, from the gospel of John 18: 31- 33; 37-38
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
How does that compare to other historical writings?
Typically there are less than ten total manuscripts and they are separated by a thousand years from the time of the writing.
- The testimony of the early Christian leaders.
If you take a look at the writings of the early church “fathers” you find that they use the NT just like we would. They quote it as authoritative source material that is binding for what God would have us to believe and to define how God would have us live.
To refute heretics, they quote the NT books. Finally, if we had no early manuscripts at all we still have the evidence of the NT in their personal writings. Sir David Dalrymple, British scholar from the 1900’s says he could compile all but 11 verses of the NT from the writings of the early church fathers!