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How to Read the Bible in a Year

How to Read the Bible in a Year

Bible in Hands 2 copy

Along with Scripture memory, reading the entire Bible through in one year is a fantastic discipline for spiritual growth.  As the new year is about to begin, why not choose a Bible reading plan and commit to read the Bible from Gen. 1 to Rev. 22 this coming year?  Yes, it can be a challenge not getting behind on each day (and reading through Numbers!), but what an important and rewarding exercise it is to read the whole Bible in a year.

 Here are a few pointers:

  • Use a modern English translation that is reliable and readable (I recommend the ESV, NASB, or HCSB).  Other translations are good, but avoid using a paraphrase (The Message, The Living Bible) for this task.  Paraphrases are good to supplement your reading/study of the Bible from a reliable translation.

  • Pick a plan that works for you.  Some plans simply follow the books in order as they appear in the Bible.  Others incorporate both Old and New Testament readings each day.  Some include a portion of Psalms and Proverbs each day.  A unique plan is to read the Bible in the historical chronological order as the events actually occurred (link for this plan is below).  This might be a great plan for you if you have previously read the Bible through in a year.

  • Set aside a time and place to read each day.  This time/place needs to allow you freedom from interruptions and distractions.  Turn off the TV, put your phone away, read at a time when the kids are asleep or at school, etc.

  • Don’t get discouraged!  If you miss a day, make it up as soon as possible.  If you lag behind you will get discouraged and quit.  Also, reading large portions of the Bible doesn’t take as long as you think.  Our staff recited from memory the entire book of James last Sunday and it took only 15 minutes.

  • Don’t let reading larger portions of Scripture completely substitute your more in-depth study of passages (such as in a Bible study you are doing, Sunday School lesson, quiet times, etc).

Here are some helpful links to help you accomplish reading through the Bible:

Read the Bible in a year: http://immanuelshawnee.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/yearly_bible_reading.pdf

Chronological reading plan: http://www.esv.org/assets/pdfs/rp.chronological.pdf

One Year Bible online: http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com

Bible reading plans in multiple media formats: http://about.esvbible.org/resources/reading/

Have each day’s Bible reading emailed to you: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

Read the entire Bible in 90 days: http://www.thebrooknetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/BibleIn90Days.pdf

Read the Bible in 2 years: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/files/2010/12/TwoYearBibleReadingPlan.pdf

Helpful blog post on importance (as well as strengths/weaknesses) of Bible reading plans: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/12/29/two-year-bible-reading-plan/

Read the Greek New Testament in a year: http://www.dennyburk.com/Stuff/ReadGreekNT.pdf

 

 

How to Memorize Scripture

How to Memorize Scripture

iStock_000001547067SmallWhy is it important and what are the benefits of memorizing Scripture?  Scripture memory is a powerful tool in growing deeper in your walk with Christ.

The Benefits of Memorizing Scripture

Dallas Willard- “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation.  If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs.  This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it!  How does it get in your mouth?  Memorization.”

There is a direct joy that comes from memorizing Scripture.  When your mind is filled with the word of God, it brings a direct joy in that it reveals to you the beauty of Christ.  The word reveals the person of Christ, His perfection, His grace, and His love.  The word of God reveals the tremendous promises of God.  There is also an indirect joy that comes from memorizing Scripture.  When your mind is filled with the word of God it brings indirect joy in that it weans you off the toxic pleasures of the world by means of the superior pleasures of Christ.

Life is going to throw some tough stuff at us.  Temptation to sin, either through lust, greed, pride, anger, you name it.  We will have crushing blows that seem to defeat us. People will disappoint us.  Tragedy will bring great grief.  Notice how many Scripture verses there are that directly apply to so many of the situations we face in life.  What if we had those verses already memorized when those tough challenges come our way?  Psalm 119:9,11- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Let’s say you’re facing a situation that tempts you to sin. What do you have in your toolbox to fight against such a temptation- just your willpower?  If so, you’re probably in trouble.  But what if the Holy Spirit brings to mind at this point of spiritual battle a verse from God’s Word? All of these are illustrations of what Eph. 6:17 calls the “sword of the Spirit.”  When the Holy Spirit brings to your mind a pertinent spiritual truth at just the right moment it is a weapon- a sword- that makes the difference in spiritual battle.  Jesus did this in Matt. 4:1-11 when Satan tempted him.  Each time Satan tempted Jesus with a different temptation, Jesus had a spot on Bible verse that directly refuted the specific temptation Satan was throwing at him.  Jesus used Bible passages as weapon against temptation.  But that weapon has to be in place. This is where Scripture memorization comes in.

We can apply this same principle to times when we are trying to encourage someone going through a difficult time, sharing our faith, or making decisions.

Chuck Swindoll- “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture… No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends!  Your prayer life will be strengthened.  Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective.  Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change.  Your mind will become alert and observant.  Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced.  Your faith will be solidified.”

So, memorizing Scripture is beneficial to spiritual health and daily life.  But how do we do it?

The Method of Memorizing Scripture

You can memorize better than you think!

Many people say they cannot memorize Scripture because they have a bad memory.  Forgive me, but this is really just an excuse for the vast majority of us.  The problem is not our memory, the problem is we don’t want to be disciplined to put in the work required to memorize Scripture.  What if I offered to pay you $1,000 for every verse you memorized for the next 7 days?  How many verses do you think you could memorize then?  Also, how many movie lines, slogans, and cultural idioms have you committed to memory?  Several years ago the Lord convicted me of how many lines I had involuntarily memorized from movies I had repeatedly watched compared to the amount of Scripture I had memorized.

How do we memorize Scripture?

Write the Verses

1. Buy a pack of Post-It notes. Determine a color that suits your tastes. A color that is too dark or neon does not lend itself to memorization.

2.
Write (in black ink) on each Post-It note one phrase of the verse. Continue this until you have written the entire verse.

3.
Affix the Post-Its to a highly visible place in your bedroom or bathroom where you look often. Post them in vertical descending order. Take additional Post-Its and cover all phrases except the first one.

4.
Memorize the first Post-It. Recite it out loud, 5-10 times without error.

5.
Uncover the next Post-It. Follow step four again, this time with both Post-Its. Do this until the entire verse is memorized.

For a passage of Scripture, write out the passage on a page.  Cover the passage with a sheet of paper except for the first verse.  Recite the first verse 5-10 times and then move to the next verse reciting the previous verse(s) with it.

Memorize Word Perfectly

It’s a temptation, especially when you’re first starting out to fudge on the exact wording.  You get about ¾ of the verse memorized, then insert a few words you made up.  Don’t settle for just getting close, or for the main idea of the verse, or leaving off the reference number of the verse.  Why?  Without an objective standard of measure, you may keep lowering the bar and then eventually quit altogether.  Also, if you don’t have the verse memorized exactly you will lose confidence in sharing that verse to help a friend or witness to someone.  Incidentally, verses you know word perfectly are easier to review than those you don’t know so well.

Seek Accountability

Find a friend to whom you can recite your verses.  This will build accountability.  Here’s a great idea: find a person who doesn’t know the Lord to listen to you recite Bible verses.

Draw Picture Reminders

Sounds silly, but the reality is that most of us are visual learners- especially in this era of technology.  Doesn’t have to be elaborate or “good” art, but making a verse visual can help it stick in your mind better.

  • Psalm 119:11- a heart with a Bible inside of it.
  • Matt. 5:13- saltshaker over planet earth
  • Matt. 7:3-5- plank in the eye

Review, Review, Review!

Reviewing a verse takes a fraction of the time than actually learning or saying the verse aloud. Review your memorized verses once a week, then perhaps once a month, then every 6 months.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to keep a sharp edge on remembering verses. Review verses when you are waiting in traffic, or for an appointment, or trying to go to sleep at night.  Review is important or you will lose what you memorized.

I hope you will make the effort to memorize Scripture.  I believe it will give you a love for God’s Word and will in turn be life-changing.

Christmas Bible Quiz- Some Fun for Your Family Gathering

Christmas Bible Quiz- Some Fun for Your Family Gathering

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581Have some fun with this 30 question quiz I wrote (updated and expanded from last year) to test your knowledge of the biblical Christmas story.   Give it a try and then try it on your family this Christmas.  I  hope this little quiz will be fun and educational.  Some questions are difficult while others are easier. Scroll down a way after the last question to find the answers. I have documented each answer with its biblical reference and thrown in a little commentary on a few.  Enjoy!

1. What was the name of John the Baptist’s father?

2. When Elizabeth sees Mary and realizes she is pregnant, Mary’s response to Elizabeth is a song of praise often called what?

3. A number of scholars believe the magi who visited Jesus were students of the Old Testament thanks to the lineage of Daniel being made chief of the wise men by Nebuchadnezzar.  These scholars argue that the magi would have been aware of the appearance of the star in connection to the coming Messiah based on a verse from what Old Testament book?

4. When the angel tells Mary she will conceive a baby, the angel tells her that Elizabeth, thought to be barren, is how far along in her pregnancy?

5. Bethlehem is also known as the city of who?

6. Jewish law demanded that a male child should be circumcised how many days after his birth?

7. According to Matthew, how many wise men visited Jesus?

8. Mary and Elizabeth are often thought to be related in what way?

9. What were the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus?

10. What is the reason given by Luke as to why Mary laid Jesus in a manger?

11. Herod was troubled at the appearance of the wise men because of the title they gave to Jesus (which was the same title Herod used). What was the title?

12. What did the baby in Elizabeth’s womb do when she heard Mary’s greeting?

13. What was the name of the devout man who had been assured by the Holy Spirit he would not die until he saw Jesus and then had the opportunity to hold baby Jesus in the Temple?

14. Who was the governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth?

15. Matthew says that Herod’s slaughter of the male children under the age of two was a fulfillment of a passage from what Old Testament book?

16. What happened to Zacharias when he failed to believe the angel who came to tell him his wife would become pregnant?

17. Aside from giving Jesus gifts, what did the wise men do when they saw Him?

18. What was the name of the angel who spoke to Zacharias?

19. To what country did Joseph and Mary flee to escape Herod’s slaughter of the children?

20. The name “Immanuel” means what?

21. Who are the four women named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus?

22. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem from what city?

23. Why were Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem at such a late date in her pregnancy?

24. What was the name of the prophetess who never left the Temple and was present when Jesus was circumcised?

25. Challenge: How old was the prophetess when she saw Jesus?

26. According to Luke, the first people to see the baby Jesus, other than Mary and Joseph, were who?

27. When Joseph returns with Mary and Jesus from exile, he does not go into Judea, but to Galilee instead, because God warns him in a dream that a son of Herod is the ruler of the area. What was this son’s name?

28. Matthew states that the angel telling Joseph in a dream that Mary will have a baby and the name he is to give the child is a fulfillment of what Old Testament text?

29. When the shepherds told people about what the angels had said to them and about the baby they had found in the manger they “wondered” at their testimony.  What, according to Luke, was the response of Mary?

30. What did Mary use to wrap around the baby Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Zacharias (Luke 1:5-13)

2. The Magnificat (Luke 2:46-55)

3. Numbers 24:17: “A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel…” 

4. 6 months (Luke 1:36)

5. David (Luke 2:11)

6. 8 days (Luke 2:21)

7. He doesn’t say. He only says that they brought three kinds of gifts. (Matt. 2:1; 11).

8. As cousins (Luke 1:36).  The KJV translates the Greek word syngenis as “cousin.”  However, the word literally means “relative” and is translated as such in most modern English Bibles.

9. Gold– thought to symbolize Jesus’ royalty.

Frankincense– thought to symbolize worship of Jesus and His sacrifice.  Frankincense was used in sacrifices in the Old Testament.

Myrrh– thought to symbolize Jesus’ death (Matt. 2:11). Myrrh was a common spice used in the embalming process in Jesus’ day.

10. There was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7)

11. “King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2)

12. Leaped for joy (Luke 1:44)

13. Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)

14. Quirinius (Luke 2:2)

15. Jer. 31:15

16. He was struck mute (Luke 1:20)

17. They fell down and worshiped Him (Matt. 2:11)

18. Gabriel (Luke 1:19)

19. Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15)

20. “God with us” (Matt. 1:23)

21. Tamar (Matt. 1:3)

Rahab (1:5)

Ruth (Matt. 1:5)

Bathsheba (Matt. 1:6)

It’s amazing that women would appear in a first century Jewish genealogy.  What’s more, these women would have been viewed by Matthew’s Jewish audience as very out of place to be mentioned in the lineage of the Messiah.  Tamar, after the death of her husband, dressed as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law (Gen.38).  Rahab was a prostitute in a Gentile city (Josh. 2:1).  Ruth, though an amazing example of faith, was a Gentile and a Moabite at that (Ruth 1:4).  The Moabites began as a result of one of Lot’s daughters sleeping with him (Gen. 19:30-38).  Bathsheba committed adultery with David (2 Sam. 11).  The inclusion of these women is most likely Matthew’s way of saying that what is on display in the genealogy of Jesus is not perfection and “high breeding” but rather the grace and forgiveness of God.  It also shows that all are included and can be saved by God’s grace.

22. Nazareth (Luke 2:4)

23. They were going to register for the census (Luke 2:1)

24. Anna (Luke 2:36-38)

25.  84 years old (Luke 2:37)

26.  The shepherds (Luke 2:8-19)

27.  Archelaus (Matt. 2:22)

28.  Isa. 7:14- “Behold the virgin will be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

29.  Luke 2:19- “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

30.  Cloths (Luke 2:7)

 

 

 

 

The End Wasn’t As Near As He Thought: The Non-Existence of “Secret” Bible Codes

The End Wasn’t As Near As He Thought: The Non-Existence of “Secret” Bible Codes

There was a great deal of news the past few weeks about the possibility of the Rapture (or Day of Judgment, depending on your perspective) occurring last Saturday.  Harold Camping, the 89 year-old founder of Family Radio, made claims that he had discovered a complicated formula in the Bible “that would probably crash Google’s computers” revealing that Jesus would return to earth sometime around 6 PM on May 21.  Obviously, that didn’t occur.  I sound pretentious writing a post “after the fact,” but I did plan to post this Saturday morning until something more important came up- playing bubbles with my daughter.  My purpose to go ahead with this post is to remind us that we will see the likes of false teachers like Harold Camping again who claim to have found mysterious “codes” in the Bible and that we should not be led astray.

In 1994, Camping made a claim that the end of the world would occur in that year.  Afterward, he said he miscalculated and that this time he was more than certain about the May 21, 2011 date (Camping said yesterday he has miscalculated again and the actual date is Oct. 21).  Camping told New York magazine, “There’s nothing in the Bible that holds a candle to the amount of information to this tremendous truth of the end of the world. I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.”  Apparently, Camping’s followers were just as certain.  They spent a very large amount of money putting up over 3,000 billboards across the globe.

Here are a few of my observations and some lessons I think we can learn based on this incident with Harold Camping:

One, and most basic, is that Camping’s teaching stands in egregious opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture.  For someone who claims to have studied the Bible so thoroughly and knows its innermost “secrets,” this is either a gross oversight or prideful refusal to adhere to the truth.  Matt. 24:36 states of the Second Coming, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  In Acts 1:7 when the early church asked if Jesus was about to consummate His Kingdom, He replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  We must always remember that the Bible emphatically states that no person will ever know the date of the return of Christ.  No matter what you hear, or how convincing the argument and evidence may seem, always reject any teaching that claims to know what Jesus said was unknowable

Two, we need to be careful with the cult-like following most false teachers such as Harold Camping generate.  On Camping’s website he states, “However, it was not until a very few years ago that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible.”  Note that only “true believers” are privy to the secret knowledge.  The “true believers” are followers of Camping.  As with most false teachers of a religious genre, we need to always ask if this person is genuinely trying to help people or simply trying to make a name for himself and get rich doing so.

Three, hidden or mysterious “codes” latent in the biblical text that only a certain few have the good fortune of being able to decipher do not exist.  I am certainly no scholar, but I have been a student of the Bible for all of my adult life, hold a doctorate with an emphasis in biblical hermeneutics, and teach New Testament and hermeneutics adjunctly for a seminary, and have discovered nothing remotely close to any legitimate evidence of Bible codes.

Grant Jeffrey published a book titled “The Mysterious Bible Codes” in 1998 where he claims the Bible secretly predicts the events of World War II, the death of Princess Diana, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building to name only a few.  Jeffrey makes this claim based on a dubious formula known as ELS- equidistant letter sequence.  This method takes each letter in an arbitrary sequence and spells out some hidden name or word.  For example, according to Jeffrey, if you begin in Deut. 10:17 in the Hebrew language and count every 22nd letter the word that results is “Hitler.”  The problem is that there are no rules.  You can go forward or backward, start at any verse you want, and choose whatever number sequence you want to employ. This method essentially lets anyone make the Bible say whatever they want it to say.  There is also a question of whether such formulas are carried out in the original languages of Hebrew or Greek, or in English.  It appears that Camping has done his research in an English Bible.  If God were to hide a code in the text, would He not have done so in the original languages?

The point is that “hidden” codes betray the very reason God gave us the Bible in the first place- to reveal Himself and His truth to us.  The purpose of the Bible is not to further obfuscate faith in God, but to make it clear that God exists, created the universe, sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins, etc.  We do not need complicated mathematical formulas to understand the message of the Bible.  The truth it reveals is plain and clear.

Four, though we should not be surprised that Harold Camping was wrong about the return of Christ, neither should we be relieved.  As Christians, we are to eagerly anticipate the Second Coming.  Heb. 9:28 states, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  We should never get so comfortable in this life that we lose sight of, and passion for, the next life

It’s fitting to end this post with the next to last verse in the Bible- Rev. 22:20- “Surely I am coming soon.’” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

 

The King James Only Controversy: Can I Trust Modern Bible Translations?

The King James Only Controversy: Can I Trust Modern Bible Translations?

Last week the King James Version of the Bible celebrated its 400th birthday.  At the time of its publishing, the KJV was the summum bonum of Bible translations in the English language.  Its style and scholarship stood above other translations and would stand for centuries as the standard translation used by English speakers all over the globe.  From time to time, I am asked about what is known as the “King James Only” controversy.  In short, there are some who believe that the only credible (some would say the only inspired) translation of the Bible is the KJV.  They claim that all modern English translations of the Bible, such as the NIV, NASB, etc. have been intentionally altered by the translators/editors to lead people away from true Christian faith and doctrine.

Space and time are limited for me to go very deep into these accusations, but suffice it to say they are arguments made without any objective study of the scholarship and textual scrutinization behind modern translations.  In addition, “KJV Only” proponents build their case on very broad based misunderstandings.  “They” is used to refer to all modern biblical scholars and translators who do not hold to their view and are thus attempting to delude readers.  There are certainly some translations of the Bible that do this- namely those produced by popular cults.  However, not “all” scholars and in turn not all translations are trying to deceive or be anything but faithful to the biblical text.

Let me take a moment and attempt to explain why I think modern English translations are credible, important, and necessary.  To do so, one must highlight the advantages of modern translations over the KJV.  Thus I want to make the caveat that I deeply respect the KJV and believe it to be a very fine translation.

In the last half of the sixteenth century in Great Britain, there had been no fewer than seven English translations made.  These included excellent works of scholarship by men such as Tyndale, Coverdale, and Whittingham.  By 1600, it was confusing as to which of these translations was the best one to use.  In 1604, King James I commissioned a committee of 50 scholars to translate the Bible from the original languages and to serve as the standard bearer for English translations.  The first edition was printed in 1611.

One of the editorial objectives listed by the translators in the preface of the KJV was to give a great variety of language usage in English.  This would turn out to be one of the “weaknesses” of the KJV.  Recall that these were the days of Shakespeare and a flourishing of English language and drama.  The KJV was not only an opportunity to create the benchmark of English translations; it was also the chance to put the eloquence and richness of the English language on display.  What this meant was that the KJV translators used a variety of different English words to translate the same Greek word even when it appeared in similar context.

For example, the Greek word “katargeo,” (generally translated “to destroy”) occurs 27 times in the N.T. However, it is rendered 18 different ways in the KJV: e.g. abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become of no effect, fail, loose, bring to naught, put away, vanish away, make void.  The opposite of this practice is also present in the KJV.  There are instances when different Greek words are translated with the same English word.  For example, the English word “trouble” is used to translate twelve different Greek words.  The English word “bring” is used to represent 39 different Hebrew words.

When I get into debates with KJV Only proponents, I am often told their Bible is uncorrupted because it is the original 1611 edition that hasn’t been touched by future editions or works of scholars.  However, that is false.  The history of the printing of the KJV is very interesting.  In 1611, there were two (some argue three) folio editions with 200 variations in the text.  One is the “He” edition and the other is the “She” edition involving the text of Ruth 3:15 that renders “he went into the city” and “she went into the city” respectively.  In 1611, English spelling had not been standardized (e.g. “speake” instead of “speak”) and thus numerous corrective editions were made.  Some changes were made in 1613.  The Cambridge versions of 1629 and 1638 tried to clear up a number of discrepancies.  By the mid eighteenth century, so many misprints and reprints of the KJV had been made it became something of a scandal in Britain.  Francis Sawyer Parris, a Cambridge scholar, issued a revision in 1760.  It is interesting to note the changes of his edition and the original in 1611.  For example, 1 Cor. 13:1-3 in the 1760 version has eleven changes of spelling, nine changes of typesetting, three changes of punctuation, and one variant text- the 1611 renders “not charity” in v.2 and is replaced with “no charity,” in the mistaken belief that the original reading was a misprint.

Finally in 1769, Oxford scholar Richard Blayney produced an edition that has rarely been changed to this day.  This edition serves as the text for most present day printings of the KJV.  Thus, if someone is holding a KJV Bible and claim it to be a 1611 edition, they are in all likelihood incorrect. The movement in contemporary versions started in 1885 with the printing of the Revised Version in England.  Its counterpart was the American Standard Version printed in 1901.

The importance of modern English translations compared to the KJV can be seen in the following areas:

New discoveries in biblical manuscripts

The manuscripts used by the KJV scholars were, in general, more than a thousand years removed from the originals.  What they were using had accumulated centuries of scribal error, though none of these errors were significant in terms of doctrine.  Today we have complete copies of the N.T. approximately 600 years older and fragments 900 years older than those possessed by KJV scholars.  In addition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were not discovered until 1947, are over a thousand years older than O.T. manuscripts used by KJV translators.  In essence, we have a significantly greater quantity of ancient texts (many place the number of texts available to KJV scholars around 500 compared to over 5,000 today) that are much older than those available to the KJV scholars.  Furthermore, the Greek version of the N.T. used in translating the KJV was by Erasmus (also known as the Textus Receptus, or Received Text), which the vast majority of scholars now believe to be corrupt and was a Byzantine text type, rather than Alexandrian, meaning it is not as old.

Improvements in scholarship

The last one hundred years alone has seen developments in understanding the language and grammar of the original languages.  This is due in part to the discovery of older manuscripts (mentioned above) and findings in archaeology.

Here is a good example of this point: 1 Sam. 8:16 in the KJV reads, “And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to work.”  In the NIV, the phrase “goodliest young men” is changed to the word “cattle.”  Why did the NIV translation team make this change?  The KJV team was using a newer Hebrew text while the NIV team was using an older Greek text of the O.T. (the Septuagint or LXX).  In Hebrew, the word translated “young men” is bhrykm.  The word translated “cattle” is bqrykm.  The difference in the words is very slight and is understandable for a scribe to make the error.  The older LXX renders the word for “cattle,” not “young men.”  Additionally, notice the couplets in 1 Sam. 8:16- menservants and maidservants; young men/cattle and asses.  “Cattle” obviously fits the couplet better than “young men” and so the NIV translators made the change.

Findings in Archaeology

Science today is unearthing records from long ago which continue to open windows in understanding the biblical text.  One example of this is found in Prov. 26:23.  The KJV renders this verse as, “Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.”  It seems odd that clay pottery would be covered with silver.  The phrase “silver dross” in Hebrew is kesef sigim. A discovery in modern times found a Ugaritic text containing the phrase kesef sigim with the usage “like glaze.”  Glaze, rather than silver, better fits the context of a coating for pottery.  Modern English translations translate the phrase “glaze.”

Changes in the English Language

The changes that have occurred in the English language from the time of 1611 to the present day are a significant reason for the importance of modern English translations.  The very heart of the Bible is revelation- to communicate to people God’s truth.  However, communication is hindered if the language is difficult to comprehend.   Simply stated, the English spoken in 1611 and the English spoken today (particularly in terms of vocabulary) are quite different.  For example: Ps. 119:147 in the KJV says that God “prevented the dawn of the morning.”  Is this like the miracle of nature when the sun stopped in Josh.10?  No, in 1611 the word “prevent” meant “precede.”

Some words and phrases in the KJV are obsolete and unintelligible to modern English speakers such as:

  • “And of the rest durst…”- Acts 5:13
  • “Churl”- Isa. 32:7
  • “Cieled”- Hag. 1:4
  • “Clouted upon their feet”- Josh. 9:5
  • “Collops”- Job. 15:27
  • “Wimples”- Isa. 3:22
  • “Sackbut”- Dan. 3:5
  • “Fanners”- Jer. 51:2
  • “Implead”- Acts 19:38
  • “Glistering”- Luke 9:29

Another problem of seventeenth century English is that same words or expressions can have completely different meanings.  For example, in Luke 19:3, the KJV says that Zaccheaus climbed into the tree to see Jesus because of “the press.”  Modern English speakers would read that as Zaccheaus having some problem with the news media and reporters that were on the scene.  However, the word in the day of the KJV meant “crowd.”  The KJV will also often use the word “charity” for “love” and “ghost” for “spirit.”

There can also be confusion in understanding English grammar and structure compared with today.  One almost humorous example is the KJV rendering of 1 Kings 13:27- “And he spake unto his sons, saying ‘Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.”  One might be confused on exactly who was saddled.  The NASB renders the same verse as, “Then he spoke to his sons saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ And they saddled it.”

In conclusion, KJV Only proponents claim that modern English translations are man-made attempts at corrupting the true biblical text and promulgating false doctrine.  Many of the arguments made go so far as denigrating or even denying the existence of many of the ancient texts used to translate modern translations.  It is ironic that the preface to the original 1611 KJV written by the translators actually denies a great number of the things many KJV Only proponents affirm, namely:

  • The authority of Scripture is in the original autographs, not the KJV
  • The biblical authors were inspired, not the translators of the KJV
  • They did not condemn other translations and affirmed the value of Greek and Hebrew texts
  • They did not believe varying translations affected doctrine
  • They were not opposed to the future changing and editing of a translation

Yes, not all modern translations are helpful or accurate, and some are not even translations at all, such as paraphrases like The Living Bible.  But overall, modern English translations are a helpful tool for today’s disciple to read, study, and apply the Word of God.

If you are interested in further study, James White has written an excellent book about the topic of this post titled, “The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?”  You can see it here:

King James Only Controversy

Is the Bible Inerrant and Free of Mistakes?

Is the Bible Inerrant and Free of Mistakes?

Does the Bible have mistakes in it?  For years critics of the veracity and authority of the Bible have referred to the numerous “errors” that can be found in the Bible.   So, is the Bible inerrant?  Can it be completely trusted as the words of God?

For the sake of space, I will not enumerate the supposed errors in the Bible in this post.  Suffice it to say, I have studied these errors for years as well as the very cogent explanations for each made by a wide range of scholars.  Instead, I want to focus in a wider perspective why I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  In my experience, I have discovered that many people who champion the position that there are errors in the Bible really do so from an ad hominem perspective rather than an argument of substance.  In other words, their insistence that errors are contained in the Bible is merely grounds for their disdain for God and Christians.  As Bill Fay said, “Every time someone says to me, ‘I don’t believe the Bible because there are mistakes in it,’ I simply hand my Bible over to them and ask, ‘Would you be so kind as to show me one?’”  Most are unable to do so.

At issue is whether or not the Bible is “inerrant.”  Many people attempt to make the Bible die a thousand deaths on points that really aren’t related to inerrancy.  On his blog, author Tim Challies lists a helpful post about inerrancy by explaining what inerrancy is not.

Inerrancy does not preclude the use of ordinary language. For example, the Bible speaks of the sun “rising.”  We know the sun does not rise, but rather the earth rotates to bring the sun into view.  The use of colloquialisms is to be expected, and does not invalidate the inerrancy of Scripture.  The same can be said here of numbers.  If I go to a Thunder game and the announced attendance is 18,261, I will tell people there were 18,000 there.  The same is true with distance.  Mapquest says the distance from Shawnee to Midwest City is 31.51 miles.  If you ask me how far Shawnee is from Midwest City I’m going to say, “About 30 miles.”  My response is not as precise as GPS, but nonetheless it is accurate.

Inerrancy does not preclude the use of loose and free quotations. In our culture, quoting someone exactly is of tantamount importance.  However, in first century Greek usage, of utmost importance was the content of what someone said.  Note that the Greek New Testament never uses quotation marks.  If one ancient manuscript reads, “I Am the Truth, the Way, and the Life…” and another reads, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…” there’s no problem with inerrancy.  The content has been accurately conveyed.

Inerrancy does not preclude unusual grammatical constructions.  Biblical authors had their own unique style and vocabulary (see previous post on the inspiration of Scripture).  Some authors had very proper style and grammar (e.g. Luke) while others did not (e.g. John).  However, in no way does this undermine the accuracy or truthfulness of what was being written.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to biblical inerrancy is the question of the original autographs.  Some may argue, “I might believe that the original documents recorded by the biblical authors are inerrant, but the Bible we have today, copied for centuries by man, is full of errors.”  In reality, this argument is a non-sequitur because none of the original autographs of the Bible exist.  Since the Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and since God is perfect, it makes sense then that the original autographs of the Bible are free from any error.

But what about the Bible we have today?  For the first fifteen centuries of the New Testament’s existence, it was passed on by the handwritten work of copyists (called the “transmission” of the text).  Did these copyists make mistakes? Absolutely!  The earliest copies of the Bible were written mostly on papyrus, a brittle medium that fell apart over time.  As copies began to wear out, new ones were copied by hand.  Sometimes these copies were made by a lone copyist looking at the document(s) needing to be replaced.  At other times a reader would read the document and multiple copyists would record what they heard.  This was no easy task.  The Hebrew language has no vowels (which must be supplied) and Greek texts were often written with no spaces between the words to conserve space on the papyrus/parchment.  What were some of the mistakes that copyists would make?

Mistakes by the ear.  If a copyist was recording what was being read to him, he may mishear what was said.  For example, a reader might say, “For many years, the book had been read.”  However, the scribe may write down “red” instead of “read.”

Mistakes by the eye.  Hebrew and Greek letters are similar and copyists may have mistaken them for something different.  If a verse had a repeating clause in it, the scribe’s eyes may go from the first one to the last one, skipping the intervening words.  They may have also repeated words or phrases moving from one line to the other.  Just imagine how tired your eyes get when reading or writing for long periods of time.

Mistakes of confusion by correction. Many times the scribe would catch his own mistake.  However, if he made a mistake after a considerable amount of the document had been copied, he would not start over again.  Instead, he would go into the margin or between the lines and make the correction.  However, future scribes might not know if these marks were corrections or notes added for clarification of the text.

Mistakes of abbreviation.  Common words or phrases were sometimes abbreviated, but later scribes might not understand these and attempt to erroneously correct them.

Mistakes of refusal to correct.  Scribes would sometimes come across what they knew to be a clear mistake by the previous copyist.  However, out of deep respect for the biblical text and process of transmission, they would refuse to correct the manuscript.  We should note that biblical scholars, even in ancient times, were aware of the mistakes made by copyists.  The vast majority are quite simple to identify.  For example, the Masoretes, who preserved the oldest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament we have today, made a comprehensive list of ancient variants and problems with the text.

So, knowing that copyists were prone to mistakes, how can we say that the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and completely true and accurate in all that it says?  Let me explain by using the New Testament as an example.  Today we have over 5,000 ancient copies, in whole or in part, of the New Testament in the Greek language in which they were originally written.  Obviously, these 5,000 copies are not exactly identical.  There are variances between the copies in terms of different vocabulary words used, phrases, or sentence structure (called “variants”).  However, of these 5,000 copies, the vast majority do have the exact same rendering for every word and sentence in the New Testament (called the “majority text”).  If there is a variant reading in a number of ancient copies, or in some of the more important, older copies, then a note to this effect is made at the bottom of the Greek New Testament (called the “textual apparatus”).  It is important to note that none of the variances deal with anything that is substantive or theological in nature.  They generally deal with conjunctions, determiners, etc.

That the majority of over 5,000 copies, made by different scholars at different times in different places, say the same thing is evidence that the majority text is God’s inerrant Word.  Add to this that copyists and ancient scholars used rigorous standards to determine the accuracy of the text.  For example, here are two (among many) of the rules they commonly used:

The rule of difficulty.  The most difficult text (i.e. to understand theologically or in plain sense) is probably the correct one.  It is far more likely that ancient scribes would have tried to simplify a text through editing than to make it more difficult.  Thus, difficult texts show that a copyist did not make an alteration.  An example I give to my students is this: Let’s say you’re a copyist and you have two copies of the same text which have different renderings and you’re trying to determine which is correct.  One copy reads, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.”  The other copy reads, “Propel, propel, propel your craft placidly down the solution, exuberance, exuberance, exuberance, exuberance existence is but an illusion.”  The simpler rendering appears to have been simplified by a copyist. The more difficult rendering appears to be closer to the original.

The rule of antiquity.  The oldest text is most likely the best one.  Copyists dated their work or dates can be determined by the style of font that was used.  The older the text, the less time and opportunity copyists had to make alterations.

But does any of this verify that the Bible we have on our desk today is an accurate and trustworthy representation of the original documents written by the biblical authors?  One of the greatest archaeological finds ever made are the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Most people have heard of these, but they don’t know why they are so important.  They are tremendously important because they stand as evidence of all I have been talking about in this post: Namely, that God was directly overseeing the transmission of the biblical text so that what we have today is truly inerrant.  The Dead Sea Scrolls, accidentally discovered by a shepherd boy in 1947 in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea, were copies of the Old Testament written in Hebrew.  The scrolls were produced by the Essenes, a monastic sect of Jews living in seclusion, carefully recording and preserving the Scripture.  The scrolls date back to 200 B.C.  At that time, the oldest copy of the Old Testament was the Masoretic text (from which the Old Testament in your Bible is translated) which is dated around 900 A.D.  The absolutely amazing thing is that the Dead Sea Scrolls, over 1,000 years older than the Masoretic Text, are virtually identical.  This means that for 1,000 years God was overseeing the transmission of the text.  It’s difficult to describe just how amazing this is!  Despite the human errors of copyists, God had insured that His Word was being accurately passed on to future generations.

Everything I have written thus far helps to explain that, as far as textual criticism and the problems of transmission, the Bible stands unparalleled in its accuracy.  As for the aforementioned “errors” in the Bible- theological, historical, or otherwise- each of these has very plausible explanations.  I plan future posts in the “Tough to Tackle Tuesday” feature of my blog to specifically address some of these.

I hope you will join me in trusting that the Bible is divinely inspired by God, completely inerrant and infallible, free of any fraud or deceit, and a trustworthy guide for life.

 

Who Wrote the Bible: God or Man?

Who Wrote the Bible: God or Man?

Who wrote the Bible- God or man?  How can we trust that the words we read in the Bible are the words of God? These are common questions many people have about the Bible known in theology as the inspiration of Scripture.  This doctrine addresses the question: In what sense, or exactly how, is the Bible inspired by God?

To begin, the Bible is indeed inspired by God.  To say that the Scripture is “inspired” means that God is the source behind its creation and truth.  The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man.  A key biblical text which teaches this is 2 Tim. 3:16- 17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  The word “inspired” in this verse literally means “God-breathed.” The Bible is not merely the work of man, but are words “breathed out” by God.

A second key text that demonstrates God as the inspiration behind Scripture is 2 Pet. 1:20-21- “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture seeks to answer exactly how we are to go about interpreting that last phrase- “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

In general, there are four major views, or theories, of the inspiration of Scripture:

Illumination

This view states that the author is not divinely inspired, but rather the reader is inspired by the reading.  This makes the Bible “inspired” like we would consider the works of Shakespeare are inspired.  The theory of illumination makes the source of inspiration not God, but the reader of the text.  If this view were true, it would explain apparent “errors” in Scripture since it eviscerates any notion of the Bible being propositional truth.  The “truth” of the Bible would be up to the interpretation of the reader. The problem is that this view ignores the statements made in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and 2 Pet 1:20-21 on God inspiring the text and thus gives the Bible no real authority.

Dictation

This view states that humans were only stenographers that God used to write the Bible.  There is no human element involved and thus the men who wrote the words of the Bible did so as automatons whom God “zapped” to record the Scripture via dictation.  If this theory were true, it would answer any issue with supposed “errors” in the Bible.  If the men took direct dictation from God there could obviously be no mistakes since God is perfect.

The problem with this view is that it does not take into account the obvious personality, writing style, and background of the biblical authors.  For example, when my Greek professor would give us assignments from the Bible to translate, we would always breathe easy when he assigned writings of John.  His sentence structure is simple and he uses very basic vocabulary.  On the other hand, if our teacher assigned something from Luke or Acts, we groaned somewhat because Luke uses complex sentences and vocabulary.  Another example is Mark, whose Gospel is known for its rapid movement.  Mark uses the historic present tense a great deal- about 150 times in his Gospel.  He clearly prefers this over the past tense, so we read “Jesus comes… Jesus says… Jesus heals…” time and time again.  Jesus is always on the move in Mark.  Furthermore, to express rapid movement Mark uses the Greek word for “immediately” 42 times whereas Matthew and Luke use it 7 times- “and immediately Jesus got into the boat…”   When you read each book of the Bible, it becomes clear that each author has a distinct purpose and emphasis for writing.  For example, Matthew clearly wrote his Gospel for a Jewish audience.  Luke wrote his Gospel for a Gentile audience.

Another weakness of the dictation theory is that it doesn’t explain why there is so much repetition in the Bible.  If God was dictating his word to a scribe, why do we have four different accounts, from four different perspectives, about the life and ministry of Jesus (the Gospels)?  Why do we have 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, which overlap much of their material?

Dynamic

This view emphasizes the inspiration of the author more than the actual words they recorded.  In other words, God only inspired the thoughts of the authors and left the details of what was to be recorded up to them.  With my students, I compare this view to something akin to Deism- that God created the world, then removed His presence, and let naturalism run its course.  This theory means that cosmology, grammar, and history are reflective of the author and his times, which explains apparent problems of history and science in the Bible.

Adherents of this rubric of biblical inspiration often cite that the Bible in terms of “religious” things is OK because God inspired their basic thoughts on the subject.  However, scientific and historical things are not to be trusted because biblical authors were all members of pre-industrialized society. Their words are not trustworthy in such matters because they did not have access to modern scientific knowledge.  The problem with all of this is that it creates a huge slippery slope for biblical authority.  If not all of the Bible is inspired, which parts are inspired?  We go back to 2 Tim. 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired…”

Verbal Plenary

This final view is the most preferable one because it gives strong authority to the Bible as the actual words of God while allowing for the human element to be involved in its recording.  The word “plenary” means “full” and the word “verbal” refers to the actual words in the Bible.  Thus, the verbal plenary view states that God inspired every word of Scripture.  Each statement in the Bible is propositionally true.  Yet, at the same time, God used the personalities and backgrounds of the authors to accomplish the task of recording His written revelation of Himself.  When people ask me the question, “Who wrote the Bible: God or man? Who wrote Romans: God or Paul?” I always respond with a tongue-in-cheek, “Yes!”  God inspired it and He uniquely used unique authors to record the Scripture.

Critics of this view argue that it cannot be adequately explained- it is too much of a mystery.  Yet, when it comes to the Bible- the actual words of our Creator, should we expect to neatly package and explain everything that comes from One infinitely greater and wiser than us?  This final view best captures what is clearly apparent when reading the Scripture- every word is inspired by God and He used human personalities in order to uniquely and effectively communicate His truth to the human race.  What an amazing book the Bible is- and an even more amazing God who inspired it!  Yes, the Bible contains the accurate and trustworthy words of God.

 

Is the Bible Credible?

Is the Bible Credible?

You have heard objections to the credibility of the Bible: “The Bible is just a fairy tale.”  “How do we know people didn’t just make this stuff up?” “The Bible we have today isn’t what the original authors wrote.”  “The Bible cannot be trusted because the originals do not exist.”  “The Bible is full of mistakes.”  Unfortunately, much of what we hear from mainstream media promulgates such statements through the insistence of only consulting liberal scholars such as those within the Jesus Seminar.  In addition, my experience of teaching biblical hermeneutics and debating others about the veracity of Scripture has taught me that many people who question the Bible know very little about it.

In this post I hope to give evidence that the Bible is an amazingly credible document.  A few caveats: First, there is so much more I could add of a technical nature (which I teach in my seminary class) to defend this position, but for sake of space (and boredom!) I will try and make it simple.  Second, one ultimately believes in God and believes His Word on the basis of faith.  That said, I firmly believe that believing in God and the credibility of Scripture is a very rational thing.  In other words, to be a Christian and believe in the Bible does not mean you have to check your brains at the door.  Third, issues relating to this topic such as the inspiration of Scripture and the inerrancy of Scripture will be covered in forthcoming posts.

So, is the Bible reliable?  What does it say about itself and what does the historical evidence reveal?

Internal Evidence

The first question we should ask is whether or not the Bible itself claims to be the authoritative words of God.  The answer is a resounding “yes!”  Consider these texts:

2 Tim. 3:16- 17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

2 Pet. 1:21- “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Also significant is that Jesus considered the Scripture to be authoritative, accurate, and credible.  Matt. 5:17-Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [i.e. the Old Testament- the “Bible” of Jesus’ day]; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”  Clearly, Jesus had the utmost regard for Scripture.

External Evidence

Consider the following in terms of the credibility of the Bible:

The practical effects of the Bible in the lives of people.  Granted, this may be an academically weak point, but you cannot discount the fact that the Bible has changed more lives in human history than any other book.  It remains today one of the best selling books (and can be argued the best seller) every year.

Remarkable survival and withstanding of scrutiny. The Bible has been scrutinized and held to a higher standard in terms of credibility than any other document in history.  See “Credibility of the Text” below.

Confirmations in archaeological findings. Consider, for example, that the Book of Mormon states that the people of Jared, descendants from the Tower of Babel, migrated to North America and built large, industrialized cities in the pre-Colombian era.  The problem is that archaeologists have yet to find one of these cities.  On the other hand, the vast majority of the cities mentioned in the Bible have been discovered.

Credibility of the Text

The Bible has been scrutinized more than any other book.  In general, scholars consider the validity of an ancient document on the basis of two criteria: One, the number of ancient copies that are extant (in existence); Two, the date of the earliest copy in relation to the date of the autograph (the original).  NOTE: It is often argued that the Bible is not to be trusted because the originals do not exist.  However, the original to ANY ancient document the age of the Bible does not exist.  The actual documents written by the hand of Plato, for example, are not extant.  So, the lack of originals is a completely fallacious argument.

Consider the two criteria I just mentioned.  The first is number of ancient copies.  Let’s say you walked into a high school or college classroom and asked the students, “Do you any of you doubt Livy wrote Roman History?” No one would raise their hand.  But if you asked that same question of Paul and his letters, you would certainly have some skeptics.  But let’s examine the evidence. Today, there are 20 copies of Livy’s Roman History.  There are 9 copies of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  There are 8 copies of Herodotus’ History.  All of these easy fulfill the scholarly criteria for being credible.  So what about the Bible- the New Testament in particular?  Today we have over 5,000 full copies and fragments of the New Testament in its original language of Koine Greek (if you include other language copies, that number shoots to more than 25,000).  20, 9, 8, and 5,000- which document is more credible?

The second criteria is the gap of time between the date of the original and the earliest copy.  The argument is that the shorter amount of time between the original and earliest copy is better because that is less time for scribes to make errors or additions.  The oldest copy of Caesar’s Gallic Wars we have today was written around 850 A.D.  Caesar wrote Gallic Wars around 50 B.C.  The gap of time between the original and the earliest copy is 900 years.  The gap of time between the original of Herodotus’ History and the earliest copy is about 1,300 years.  The gap of time between the writings of Plato and the earliest copy is also about 1,300 years.  All of these fit the scholarly criteria and would never be thought as anything but credible.  Once again, what about the Bible?  John wrote his Gospel around 90 A.D.  We have a portion of a copy of John 18 (the Rylands fragment, known as “P52”) that is just 35 years after the original!  900 years, 1,300 years, and 35 years.  Which document is more credible? The Muratorian Canon (170 A.D.- about 200 years after most of the New Testament was written) contains a list of almost the entire New Testament as being in wide circulation in the early church (incidentally this is a blow to the “research” of author Dan Brown).

The works of Livy, Herodotus, Caesar, and Plato are seldom, if ever questioned, as for their credibility.  However, the Bible is always questioned.  Yet, the historical evidence does not bear this out.

Scholars and scribes through the centuries have used strict criteria in evaluating biblical manuscripts.  They consider the age of the manuscript and its physical condition.  They consider what is known about the manuscript and its scribe and if there is any reason to suspect editing.  They consider if the text is in harmony with the same text in other manuscripts.  They look to see if there is an easier reading substituted for a more difficult one.  In so many ways, the text of the Bible has been carefully copied in the transmission of God’s Word.

Credibility of the author

Here’s another objection to the credibility of the Bible: The authors are biased.  Do they tell us the truth about Jesus or what they want us to believe about Jesus?  Everything ever written is biased to some degree.  Everyone who writes has a purpose for writing and a particular point of view.  A newspaper story, the letter you got from your mother, even your electric bill has some bias.  The question is, “Is there too much bias?

Biblical authors included their shortcomings unlike most ancient authors. Caesar’s Gallic Wars, the chronicles written by Pharoahs, and Mesopotamian kings are all written about themselves by themselves.  They do not tell of any defeat, only victories.  The purpose of these writings is to glorify themselves.  On the other hand, biblical writers are out to glorify God, not themselves.  If the biblical writers were biased, we would not read about:

-Moses murdering a man and forced into exile.

-David sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering her husband.

-Peter denying Christ three times.

Accuracy

The Bible is accurate in all that it says.  There are countless critics who have determined so-called “errors” in the Bible.  I do not have the time to consider these (perhaps in future posts?), but studying these “errors” and how time after time advancements in textual scholarship and archaeology always support the Bible and not the critics is fascinating.  We could go through a long litany of evidences on how the Bible is accurate, but consider just two.

One, much of what the Bible claims, if they were lies, would by their nature not exist.  Let me explain.  Let’s say four guys named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all meet at the Jerusalem Starbucks in 60 A.D. and decide to “invent” a new religion to foist onto to people as a joke or ploy for popularity.  If they were “inventing” a new religion, wouldn’t they make it something that would be believable and credible in the minds of people?  Instead, the Gospels start off with the protagonist being born of a virgin, healing people and raising people from the dead, then raising himself from the dead with the first witness of the resurrection being a woman (whose credibility as a witness in the first century was inadmissible).  The only reason such “unbelievable” things appear in the New Testament is because they really happened.  If these guys were making this stuff up they certainly would not have included such outrageous claims.  Furthermore, most of the earliest followers of Jesus gave their lives as martyrs for their faith.  If the account of Jesus had been a lie they had fabricated, they certainly would have come clean about their deception in order to save themselves.

Two, the fulfilled prophecy contained in the Bible cannot be discounted.  Suppose you picked up a book and it predicted the major events of WWII.  It talked about the rise of Hitler, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the atomic bomb.  You then looked at the copyright on the book and it says “1950.”  Big deal.  Written after the facts.  But what if that same book had a copyright of 1920?  Then you would be on to something!  Consider the fulfilled prophecy in the Bible written long before the events occurred, many times in amazing detail.  Micah wrote (5:2) that Jesus the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, over 700 years before it happened.  Psalm 22, written even earlier, accurately predicted that the soldiers would not divide Jesus’ robe at the crucifixion, but rather cast lots for it. There are about 300 prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled in the person Jesus Christ.

There is so much more that could be said in defense of the Bible, but I hope I made the point that, even by the world’s secular standards, the Bible can fairly be called the most credible ancient document in existence.  You don’t have to check your brains at the door!  Again, we ultimately trust God’s Word to be true and authoritative on the basis of faith.  We love His Word because we love Him.  The Bible is truly an amazing, powerful, guide by which to live our lives.

Psalm 119:129-130- “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

 

Why Sharks at the Aquarium Don’t Eat the Fish They’re Swimming With (And How We Could Learn the Same Lesson)

Why Sharks at the Aquarium Don’t Eat the Fish They’re Swimming With (And How We Could Learn the Same Lesson)

Yesterday my family went to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks to have a little fun and time off for Spring Break.  We had a great time and especially enjoyed the huge exhibit of sharks.  They have a glass walkway that tunnels through the exhibit so that sharks swim above and beside you.  It just so happened that while we there, we got to see them feed the sharks.  As I watched these amazing creatures eat, I was reminded of something that occurred at another aquarium last year.

On our way to a convention in Orlando, FL, we stopped at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, which is famous for housing whale sharks.  They have the largest tank I have ever seen with every kind of fish and many dangerous types of sharks.  As we stood there watching the animals, one of my children asked, “Dad, what keeps those sharks from eating all the other fish and each other?”  I started to respond with the typical Dad-like “Well, you see son, these sharks…” but then it hit me- that’s a really good question.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it before.  Come to think of it, in all of the zoos and aquariums I have been in, I have never once seen a shark attack and eat another fish in the tank.  So, why do the sharks behave so well?

We asked a worker at the aquarium and he responded, “That’s easy.  The sharks are so well fed they don’t want to eat the other fish.”  Sharks are fed a consistent, steady diet of food that keeps them satisfied and refraining from undesired behavior in the tank (i.e. eating the other fish).

It dawned on me what a tremendous lesson this is for us.  I wonder if much of our undesired behavior would be eliminated if we had a steady diet of the Word of God in our lives?  I wonder if we would stop attacking people, treating them rudely, selfishly, and scornfully if we were well fed on the truth and wisdom of the Word?  Sadly, far too many Christians do this to one another in the church.  Many churches, if they were aquariums, would have only a handful of sharks because they ate all the other fish!  Imagine the horror if you took your small child to the aquarium to see the sharks violently chase down and devour all the cute little “Nemo” fish?  Now, imagine what people on the outside of church think when they look in and see the believers arguing and tearing each other to shreds.  They want no part of that.

Friends, make a commitment to incorporate a daily time in God’s Word in your schedule.  If we feast on Scripture- to truly study it and contemplate how can we apply it in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, I can only imagine how it would change our appetites.  Our appetite for worldly and fleshly things would be diminished.  Our appetite to injure others with our words and actions would decrease.  Our behavior in the “aquarium” of life would be much more God-pleasing if we were consistently in the Word.

 

What Will God Make of Me?

What Will God Make of Me?

Kent Hughes tells the story of E.V. Rieu, a linguistic scholar famous for his lucid translations of the works of Homer for the Penguin Classics series.  Rieu was sixty years old when his translations were published and had been an agnostic all his life.  The publisher soon approached Rieu again and asked him to translate the Gospels. When Rieu’s son heard this he said, “It will be interesting to see what father will make of the four Gospels.  It will be even more interesting to see what the four Gospels make of father.”  He did not have to wonder very long.  Within a year’s time E. V. Rieu, the lifelong agnostic, responded to the Gospels he was translating and became a committed Christian.  His story is a marvelous testimony to the transforming power of God’s Word.

The question the younger Rieu posed of his father is a timely one for us today.  We live in a consumerist culture that demands “What’s in it for me?”  Many people do this with God.  They want to “make of God” a Being that will give them their every whim and allow them to live the lifestyle they choose.  We’ve become good at following God on our terms rather than His terms.  We do the same with church- “What can it do for me?” as well as the Bible- making it say what we want it to say.  But the question for us must not be, “What will I make of God?”  The question must be, “What will God make of me?”

God and His Word are not up for our self-made and self-centered revisions.  God is God and His Word is complete.  Our desire should be to stop trying to make God be someone we want Him to be.  Instead, let’s allow God and His Word to do what He wants to do in us- to make of us something for His glory.  I want to challenge you in this coming year to move to a deeper level in your commitment and relationship with the Lord.  Be honest- where are you in the Lord right now?  What things need to change?  What things need to stop?  What things need to start?  Don’t settle for stagnation in your spiritual life and don’t compromise into trying to “make something” of God that fits your agenda or the world’s definition of what is religiously “acceptable.”  Rather, let Him make something of you.