How Do I Know The Bible is True?
Hard Questions, Honest Answers How Do I Know the Bible is True? Pastor Pat Damiani April 8, 2018 Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for some of you, this may very well be my last Sunday here at TFC for a while. You see this past couple of weeks I have received several calls from the IRS indicating that there is a warrant for my arrest and informing me that if I don’t pay my back taxes by means of a prepaid debit or credit card immediately, I am subject to arrest. So I’m expecting to be arrested any day now. Obviously, I’m being a bit facetious here because those calls are obviously a scam. But they have been so prevalent that the IRS has had to issue several statements to let people know how the IRS legitimately contacts people if there is an issue with their taxes. Last week at the sunrise service I talked a bit about some other hoaxes that have been carried out over the years on April Fool’s Day, but obviously scammers who are out to take advantage of the gullibility of people don’t limit themselves to one day a year. Perhaps some of you who are on Facebook have seen this picture. [Show picture of Bill Gates offering to give $5,000 to anyone who shared the kink to that post] I won’t ask for a show of hands because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but how many of you shared that post? Perhaps you did that thinking there really wasn’t any harm in hoping for an easy $5,000, but it is actually pretty easy to do some quick research that would have revealed that picture was a hoax by a prankster that took this picture [Show next picture] from a Reddit “Ask me anything” session that Bill Gates had taken part in in the past and photoshopped in the message that appears on Facebook. With these kinds of hoaxes there are all kinds of resources we can go to in order to figure out if something is true or not. But how do we go about determining if something is true or not when the original sources aren’t around any more, especially when it is something that is crucial to our lives if it is true? That’s the question I’ll be addressing this morning. This morning I’m going to begin a five-sermon series titled “Hard Questions, Honest Answers”. Whether you’ve been a disciple of Jesus for a long time or you have not yet made the commitment to make Him your Lord and Savior, I’m pretty sure that you have questions about the Bible, God, Jesus and faith. And you’re in good company. As you read through the Bible you will find that almost everyone that we consider to be a hero of the faith today had questions about God. Some of them, like Moses, asked God those questions face to face. Some of them, like David, wrote down their questions in the form of Psalms. Some of them, like Philip and Thomas, presented their questions to Jesus. I want to reassure you that if you have questions this morning, God is not offended. I don’t know just how accurate the number is, but one commentator that I read this week claimed that there are nearly 3,300 questions in the Bible. So much of the Bible was written in anticipation of the questions that God expects we are going to ask. The first question that I’m going to deal with this morning is foundational to all the other questions that we’re going to deal with in this series and any other questions you might have about God. How Do I Know the Bible is True? That really is the key question, isn’t it? Since we do the very best we can here at TFC to base everything we teach and do on the Bible, then it is essential that we have confidence that the Bible is true and that we can therefore rely upon it. I’m sure that most of you have heard a lot of objections to the reliability and truth of the Bible over the years. I want you to think about some of the objections that you’ve experienced firsthand in your life. Maybe you heard some of these: • The Bible is just an antiquated collection of fables and myths • The Bible is full of contradictions and mistakes • Why are some ancient texts included in the Bible while others were excluded? • The Bible has been proven false by historical records and archaeology • The Bible had been changed many times over the years I obviously don’t have time to deal with all those objections, and many more, in the time we have this morning. So I am going to approach this from a more positive angle and share with you the reasons that I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is true and that it can be relied upon. And while that might not answer all these objections, I am confident this message will do two things for you: 1) It will build your personal confidence in the Bible as the Word of God that has been given to you as a guide for every area of your life, and 2) It will give you some tools to use when you encounter others who object to the truth and reliability of the Scriptures. HOW I CAN KNOW THE BIBLE IS TRUE The message today is going to be a bit different than normal because we’re not going to just study a passage of Scripture and let the text lead us. It is more a message about the Bible than a message from the Bible. I am going to begin with a couple of Bible passages, but in this case, I can’t prove the truth of the Bible only by quoting the Bible any more than I could prove any other book was true just because the author said it was true. Having said that, let’s begin by looking at the evidence we find in the Bible text. 1. Internal claims The Bible consistently and frequently claims to be the word of God. Phrases like “God said”, “the Lord said”, “God spoke”, “the word of the Lord came” and other similar phrases occur nearly 4,000 times in the Bible. I know of no other book that claims to be the word of God that many times. In addition, both Paul and Peter claim that the Scriptures are in fact God’s words that have been written down by man. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV) knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20–21 ESV) Even though the Bible is God-breathed, there is both a human and a divine element involved in the writing of the Bible. The 66 books of the Bible were written by men and each one bears the particular writing style of the author. So a letter from Paul sounds nothing like a Psalm written by David. But it is God who inspired every single word that each of those authors wrote. 2. The testimony of Jesus Jesus testified directly that God’s Word, the Bible, is truth: Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17 ESV) Jesus also testified to the truth of the Bible by publicly reading the Scriptures, quoting the Old Testament Scriptures and referring to actual historical events that were recorded there. 3. Internal consistency Let’s suppose that I chose 10 of you who are here this morning and assigned each of you the task of writing a book about a topic like “the meaning of life” over the next year. You would not be allowed to discuss what you were writing or consult with each other during that period. At the end of the year, what are the chances that those ten books would even have the same main theme, alone agree with each other concerning the specifics? Not much, right? And that would be true even though you all speak and write the same language, you live in the same community, and you even go to the same church. Now imagine another book, written over 1,500 years by 40 different authors, living on 3 different continents, writing in 3 different languages. What are the chances you would find any consistency at all between their writings? And yet that book, the Bible, has a consistent theme from beginning to end and the pieces are all interwoven perfectly. The Bible begins with a paradise that has a special tree in the middle which is described by Moses in Genesis and it ends as John describes another paradise with another special tree in the middle in the book of Revelation. And everything in between is written to show how God provides a way for sinful man, who was banished from that first paradise because of his sin, can live eternally in that second paradise. 4. History and Archaeology Over the years, many people have claimed that the Bible is inaccurate because there is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the Biblical accounts. But guess what, every single year there continue to be new discoveries that actually verify the Biblical accounts. In fact, there are so many new discoveries every year that Christianity Today magazine has been publishing an article summarizing the “Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of the Year” for many years. Obviously there are thousands of examples that I could give you, but let me mention just a couple. Most people know the story of Jericho and how the walls came tumbling down when the Israelites marched around the city. For many years Bible skeptics laughed at that story claiming that walls don’t just come tumbling down. They also claimed the city was too big for the Israelites to have walked around it seven times in one day. But archaeological discoveries in the early 20th century by British professor John Garstang and others give evidence that the walls actually fell outward, not inward as would be expected and that when they fell they essentially formed a ramp that allowed the Israelites to climb right over the walls into the city, just as the Biblical accounts record. And the size of the fortified city was small enough to have permitted the Israelites to easily march around it seven times in one day. A group of people called the Hittites are mentioned nearly 60 times in the Bible. You may remember that Bathsheba’s husband was Uriah, a Hittite. Up until the start of the 20th century Bible critics claimed that there was no evidence that the Hittite people ever existed. But in 1906 Hugo Winckler discovered a huge storeroom filled with over 10,000 clay tablets in Turkey. After completing the difficult task of deciphering the tablets he discovered that there were numerous references to the Hittite people in those tablets. Before I leave this point I also want to mention that there are more than 30 sources other than the Bible, written within 150 years of the Jesus’ life that also testify to more than 100 facts regarding His life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection. The fact is that there is much external evidence that verifies the truth of Scripture and that body of proof continues to increase every year. 5. Scientific accuracy Although the Bible is not primarily a science book, it is scientifically accurate. Since this is such an important topic, I’m going to address it separately in a future sermon in this series, so all I’m going to do for now is to just mention it. 6. Manuscript evidence Perhaps you have heard people claim that the Bible has been copied and translated so many times down through the centuries that we just can’t trust that what we have today is trustworthy and that it accurately reflects the original writings. First, it is true that we do not have any of what are called the “original autographs”. Nobody has the original of any of Paul’s letters, for instance. What we do have today are what are called “manuscripts” – hand written copies of ancient documents that predate the invention of the printing press. This is another proof that probably deserves its own sermon, There would certainly be more than enough material for at least one message. So I encourage you to study this some more on your own and I’d be happy to direct you to some good resources that you can use to do that. But here is the bottom line. We have more manuscripts of the Biblical text than exist for any other ancient writing. That fact alone should tell us something about how God has preserved His Word over several millennia. And the manuscripts that we have give evidence that there is an amazing degree of consistency among them that isn’t even approached with any other ancient texts. When a shepherd boy tending his father’s sheep discovered a cave in Qumran, northwest of the Dead Sea in 1947, the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in those caves gave further confidence in the accuracy of the manuscripts that we have. Those 800 scrolls contained fragments from every book of the Old Testament except for Esther and they included a copy of the entire book of Isaiah that dated back to around 75BC. Scholars were then able to compare those scrolls to the Masoretic Text from around 1000 AD that is the primary source for many of our current day translations. They found that there was 95% word for word accuracy over almost 1100 years of hand copying the text. And out of the 5% variance most were nothing more than omitted letters or misspelled words. Today we have roughly 25,000 partial or complete New Testament manuscripts, including nearly 6,000 in Greek, 10,000 in Latin and almost 10,000 more in other ancient languages. But even if we didn’t have those, we could still reconstruct most of the New Testament using just the writings of the early church fathers who quoted from the New Testament Scriptures over 86,000 times. 7. Prophecy If I haven’t already given you enough evidence to convince you that the Bible is true, this should do the trick for sure. In our family each year, we fill out brackets for the NCAA Basketball tournament and this year Pam was the winner. In fact her bracket was so good that it was in the top 1% of all the brackets submitted to ESPN in the entire country. But even on that bracket, she only correctly picked the winners of 43 of the 63 games in the tournament The Bible, on the other had has a much better track record of making predictions. Considering how much of the Bible consists of prophecy, the fact that not even one of those prophecies has ever been shown to be false is remarkable. For me personally the accuracy of Biblical prophecy was really driven home the first time I studied the book of Daniel and saw how the prophecies of Daniel regarding the future of Israel were fulfilled literally as the Babylonian, Medio-Persian, Greek and Roman empires ruled over them exactly as Daniel had predicted. And Daniel had even predicted the very day that Jesus would enter Jerusalem on His way to die on the cross for us. That was one of roughly 300 different prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the first coming of Jesus and every single one of them was fulfilled literally by Jesus. A mathematics professor named Peter Stone decided to have his students calculate just how incredible this is. In his book, Science Speaks, Stoner describes how he had his math students calculate the possibility that any person could fulfill just 8 specific prophecies that are included among the 300. Using very conservative assumptions they calculated that the odds of any one person being able to fulfill all 8 from the beginning of time up until he published his work in 1958 was one in 10 to the 17th power (1 in 1017). That’s a big number! To put that in perspective, the odds of winning the Powerball are roughly 1 in 259 million. If my math is right, that means that odds of Jesus fulfilling all 8 of those prophecies is something like 50 billion times less likely than winning the Powerball. But Professor Stone came up with a much better illustration. If you could take 1017 silver dollars and dump them on the state of Texas they would cover the entire state 2 feet deep. Now suppose you marked just one of those silver dollars and could stir up the whole mass thoroughly. Then you blindfolded a man and told him he can travel as far as he wants, but he must pick out that one marked silver dollar. That’s how unlikely it was that Jesus could have fulfilled just 8 prophecies about His first coming that we find in the Old Testament. But He did. APPLICATION 8. The power to transform lives Up until now, I’ve presented you with a lot of reasons that I can know that the Bible is true. This last reason is both a proof and a challenge. No other book in the history of the world had had the transforming effect upon individual lives and upon the culture as the Bible. That alone doesn’t prove it’s true, but when considered with the other proofs we’ve looked at this morning, I think it is a compelling argument. I can certainly testify to this last point personally. Like many of you, my life has been personally transformed by the word of God. For much of my early life I really wasn’t openly hostile to God, but I really didn’t wasn’t interested at all in having anything to do with Him either. So when I started dating Mary and she asked me to go to church with her I wasn’t really excited about doing that, but I liked her enough that I agreed I would give it a chance. And as I sat in that service, for the first time in my life I heard the Word of God preached clearly in a way that was relevant to my life. So I came back again the next Sunday and the next. And the Word of God began to reveal some really important things about my life that I had never seen before. Although I wasn’t what most people would consider to be a “bad” person, I began to understand that from God’s viewpoint I was a sinner and that my sin separated me from a holy God. And I learned about Jesus, about His sinless life and about how He willingly gave up His life on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. And as a result, I came to put my faith in Jesus alone. And as I’ve spent time reading and studying and applying the Bible to my life, it has transformed every single area of my life – my marriage, my parenting, my job, the way I relate to other people. And as God does that in the lives of individuals, His Word has the ability impact entire communities and even nations. That was certainly true of the United States when it was founded based on Biblical principles. No other book can do that. That’s the proof. Now here is the challenge. My guess is that most of you here this morning already believed that the Bible is true when you arrived this morning. So probably all I’ve really done is to give you some things to think about that will confirm your confidence in the Bible. But if the Bible is indeed true, then the decision you have to make is whether you’re willing to change your life to live out what it says. You have to decide if you’re going to take the time to read and study the Bible and apply it to your life on a daily basis and let it transform you. If all you do this morning is leave here with a little better understanding of why the Bible is true, but that truth doesn’t make any difference in your life, then our time together this morning really won’t have been of much value. But if having more confidence in the reliability of God’s Word causes you to let the Bible transform your life, then this will have been time well spent. So as we close this morning, I’m going to ask all of us to do spend a few minutes thinking about the value of the Bible in our lives. Here is how we’re going to do that. I want you to take your Bibles and open them up to Psalm 119. If you don’t have a Bile there are some in the seat backs of the chairs and you’ll find Psalm 119 really close to the middle of your Bible. You’ll notice that Psalm 119 is broken into paragraphs that each begin with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I want you to just pick out one of those sections at random. Since the entire Psalm is about the benefit of God’s Word I can assure you that no matter which stanza of that Psalm you pick out you can do what I’m going to ask you to do. Once you’ve picked out that stanza, I want you to just spend a few minutes reading it over several times and then to pray and thank God for His Word and the benefits of His Word that you’ve just read about. Discussion Questions for the Bible Roundtable 1. Do you still have some questions about the reliability of the Bible? Let’s discuss them. 2. What are some of the objections to the bible that you hear most frequently? After what we’ve learned this morning, how would you answer those objections? 3. Give some examples of where Jesus confirmed the validity of the Old Testament Scriptures with His words and/or actions. 4. See if you can find the following verses in your Bible: Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37. Why are there these kinds of differences in Bible translations? How do they effect the reliability of the Bible?