Chapter 4: Holy Bible
4.1 How do we know the Bible is God’s Word?
No work of literature written over thousands of
years by over thirty writers from various walks of life can deliver a coherent
and consistent message. The Bible does. No storybook has the authority to make
claims about heaven and hell or to make promises concerning life after death.
The Bible does. No ordinary book could have accurately made so many prophecies
about events in human history and about the birth, life, death, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible has.
The Bible deals with the basic problems of human
life and points to a single solution: salvation through Jesus Christ. Who else
but God has the perspective and authority to inspire such a book? The Bible was
penned by humans; God revealed its contents.
The writers of the Bible claimed to be inspired
by God and that their writings are the very words of God. To see whether these
claims are trustworthy, we need to examine the evidence and test whether the
Bible as a whole is reliable and carries divine authority:
The Bible was written over a span
of 1,500 years by about 40 authors from various walks of life. Despite its
great diversity, the Bible delivers a coherent and consistent message. From
Genesis to Revelation, we see the gradual unfolding of God’s salvation plan.
Although the Bible contains teachings on hundreds of controversial subjects,
there are no contradictions among the various authors. Together, the Bible
offers us definite answers to our most basic questions: Where are we from?
Where do we go after death? How can we know and be reconciled with our Creator?
The amazing unity of the Bible tells us that it was God who inspired and
oversaw the writing of the books in the Bible.
Its historical and geographical accuracy:
Modern archeological findings
have confirmed the accuracy of the people, places, and historical events
recorded in the Bible. Time and again, archeological evidence has disproved the
claims of critics who believed many of the Biblical accounts to be errors or
myths. Until today, new discoveries continue to affirm rather than discredit
the Bible.1 Consequently, the Bible’s reliability reveals to us that its claim
to divine origin is trustworthy.
Its prophetic accuracy:
“The Bible itself offers the standards
by which to test those who claim to speak authoritatively about the future. It
says in Deuteronomy 18:20-22 that the test of a prophet’s authority is the
accuracy of his predictions. The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies, so we
can measure it by its own test…. Whenever the Bible speaks prophetically,
therefore, it is accurate. Hundreds of prophecies have been literally
fulfilled. On this basis, we can also believe what the Bible has to say about
things to come. It has already proven itself!”2
Its scientific accuracy:
Although the Bible is not a book
about science, its scientific accuracy confirms that the author of the Bible is
also the creator and ruler of this universe. Many of the statements in the
Bible were confirmed by scientific discoveries hundreds or thousands of years
after the time of their writing. (E.g. a spherical earth (Isa
40:22); earth suspended in space (Job 26:7); the stars uncountable (Jer 33:22)).
Its fulfillment of promises
Through the Bible, God has
offered many promises to those who believe and obey him. Today, we can
experience these blessings when we put the words of the Bible into practice.
For examples, believers today still receive the Holy Spirit just as the
apostles did thousands of years ago. Through prayers in faith, demons are cast
out, the sick are healed, and even the dead are raised. In our daily lives, we
experience the Lord’s guidance and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
In difficult times, we receive comfort, strength, peace, and joy. All of these are
the fulfillment of the Bible’s promises to believers.
4.2 The Bible is full of inaccuracies.
No scientific or archaeological discovery has
ever disproved any of the Bible’s accounts. In fact, certain biblical passages
that were thought to be mistakes have later been confirmed to be true. Error
lies not in the Bible, but in our misinterpretation resulting from our limited
knowledge. As we continue to learn about the world around us, we gain a better
understanding of biblical claims and God’s greatness.
Besides, to read the Bible solely as a
scientific manual or a historical account would be missing its point. We ought
to read the Bible to learn about God and his salvation.
4.3 The Bible is outdated.
People of different generations, cultures, and
upbringings have all proclaimed the power of the Bible in their lives. Why
would the Bible strike a chord in so many hearts?
For one thing, the basic problems of human life
remain the same: how to deal with evil and suffering, how to find something
lasting in a life so finite and frail, and, ultimately, how to receive eternal
life. The Bible gives us the answer to our problems, a solution that’s good for
all ages: Jesus Christ. To see for yourself what the Bible is good for, you
can’t just skim through or read it like any other book; you have to put its
teachings into practice in your life.
4.4 The Bible is full of contradictions.
Many assume that the Bible is full of
contradictions but never examine whether this charge is true. When we examine
these so called “contradictions” or “errors,” we realize that they are only
apparent. For example, while two Bible passages may record the same event with
varying details or from different perspectives, the accounts do not contradict
“Not every biblical discrepancy has been
resolved. But the direction of the evidence is very encouraging. As biblical
scholarship increases and our knowledge of language, text, and context
increases, the problem of discrepancy becomes smaller and smaller. There is
less reason today to believe that the Bible is full of contradictions than at
any time in the history of the church. Prejudice and critical philosophical
theories, however, die a very slow and hard death”3
See Reason to Believe4 for the
story of a student who charged the Bible with contradictions but was later
convinced that what he thought to be contradictions were only apparent.
4.5 The Bible has been copied and translated over
and over again for hundreds of years. How do we know that it has not been
altered over time?
To test the reliability of historical documents,
historians examine the textual transmissions by which the documents reach us.
By looking at the number of manuscripts (copies), the consistency among
manuscripts, and the time interval between the composition of the original work
and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts, we can determine the accuracy
of the transmission.
A vast number of biblical manuscripts have been
discovered over time. To be skeptical of the biblical text’s accuracy is to
discredit all classical works of antiquity, because no other text has been as
well-preserved. For example, there are 37 times more copies of the New
Testament manuscripts than copies of Homer’s Iliad. Besides the great number of
manuscripts, the fact that these biblical manuscripts agree with each other
assures us that the Bible has not been altered over time.
It is important to keep in mind that the ancient
Hebrews regarded the Scripture as sacred text. Copyists, therefore, took
extreme care in copying and storing the manuscripts. Among these copyists were
the Talmudists and Massoretes, who followed very
strict rules in treating scriptural text. As a result, the manuscripts we have
today are not casual copies but the faithful transmissions of the divine word.
For a more thorough treatment on the reliability
of the Scriptures as historical texts, see Evidence that Demands A Verdict,
4.6 What does the term “canon” refer to?
The word canon comes from the root word “reed”
(English word “cane”; Hebrew form ganeh and Greek Kanon). The “reed” was used as a measuring rod and
eventually meant “standard.”6
The word “canon” applied to Scripture means “an
officially accepted list of books.”7
4.7 Who decided which books to include in the
Bible? On what basis was this decision made?
One thing to keep in mind is that the church did
not create the canon or books included in what we call Scripture. Instead, the
church recognized the books that were inspired from their inception. They were
inspired by God when written.
We don’t know exactly what criteria the early
church used to choose the canonical books. There were possibly five guiding
principles used to determine whether or not a New Testament book is canonical
or Scripture. Geisler and Nix record these five
Is it authoritative—did it come from the hand of
God? (Does this book come with a divine “thus saith
the Lord”? )
Is it prophetic—was it written by a man of God?
Is it authentic? [The fathers had the policy of
“if in doubt, throw it out.” This enhanced the “validity of their discernment
of canonical books.”]
Is it dynamic—did it come with the
life-transforming power of God?
Was it received, collected, read and used—was it
accepted by the people of God?
Peter acknowledged Paul’s work as
Scripture parallel to Old Testament Scripture (2 Peter ).
4.8 How can we trust the canon, which was
determined by man? Couldn’t the canon have left out some of God’s words or
added books that were not God’s words?
If we believe that the Bible is indeed God’s
word, as it claims to be, then we ought to also believe these words: “For
verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be
fulfilled” (Mt 5:18). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My
words will by no means pass away” (Mt 24:35).
The canon was not the result of a Rabbinical discussion or church council, as some think it
was. It was a gradual process through which God’s people uphold certain books
as inspired and exclude others as the works of men. We must trust that God
oversaw not just the writing but also the making of the Bible.
In addition, we have the endorsement of Christ
himself and the New Testament writers on the validity of the Old Testament
canon. The early church also readily accepted the New Testament as the inspired
word of God because of its apostolic authority. Therefore, based on our belief
that the Bible is reliable and that the words of Jesus Christ, who is God
himself, are trustworthy, we can be confident that the Bibles we have in our
hands are the same words that God has intended when he moved the Biblical
writers to set his words down on paper. Nothing has been added or taken away.
4.9 What is the Apocryhpha?
According to Josh McDowell and Don Stewart,
“Today the word apocryhpha is synonymous with the
fourteen or fifteen books of doubtful authenticity and authority. These
writings are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, but they are contained in
some manuscripts of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old
Testament, which was completed around 250 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt.
“Most of these books were
declared to be Scripture by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent
(1545-1563), though the ProtestantChurch rejects any divine
authority attached to them.”9
4.10 Why do you not consider the Apocryhpha as scripture?
According to H.L. Willmington,
there are many sound scriptural reasons for rejecting the Apocryhpha:10
The Apocryhpha was
never included in the Old Testament canon by such recognized authorities as the
Pharisees, Ezra the prophet, etc.
It was never quoted by the Jews, by Jesus, or by
any other New Testament writers.
The great Jewish historian Josephus excluded it.
The well-known Jewish philosopher Philo did not
The early church fathers excluded it.
The Bible translator Jerome did not accept the
books as inspired, although he was forced by the Pope to include them in the
Latin Vulgate Bible.
None of the fourteen books claim divine
inspiration; in fact, some actually disclaim it.
Some books contain historical and geographical
Some books teach false doctrine, such as praying
for the dead.
No Apocryphal book can be found in any catalogue
list of canonical books composed during the first four centuries A.D. In fact,
it was not until 1596 at the Council of Trent that the Roman Catholic Church
officially recognized these books, basically in an attempt to strengthen their
position, which had been grievously weakened by the great reformer Martin
4.11 The Bible doesn’t make sense.
Just because we can’t appreciate an abstract
painting doesn’t make it any less meaningful. Just because a foreign language
seems like gibberish doesn’t mean that it is.
The same goes with the Bible. Using limited
human vocabulary to describe profound spiritual truth, the Bible may at first
appear to be incomprehensible. However, because God inspired it, he will help
us understand it if we read it prayerfully and reverently. Reading the Bible is
different from reading any other book because it is the word of God set before
us concretely. Through the Bible, God shows us who he is and how he saves us.
God’s own words give us life, and that’s how the Bible can change us
For a basic list of findings that confirmed
Biblical recordings, see Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands A Verdict, vol. 1
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979) 68-73
Can I Really Trust the Bible? (Grand Rapids: RBC
Ministries, 1987) 22.
R.C. Sproul, Reasons
to Believe (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands A Verdict,
vol. 1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979) 39-65.
Ralph Earle, How We Got Our Bible (Grand Rapids:
Baker Book House, 1971) 31.
Norman L. Geisler and
William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press,
Josh McDowell, Answers to Tough Questions
Skeptics Ask about the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale
House Publishers, Inc., 1980) 46.
H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984) 805.