Can You Trust the Bible

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Most all of us, when it comes to Bible study, we have a habit of looking at scripture with a non-critical eye.  We wait for it to reveal itself to us.

When reading a passage in the New Testament that doesn’t make sense, we assume “we” are the problem.  That somehow, we’re not be smart enough to uncover what it’s talking about.  Certainly, that’s the case when reading the parables of Jesus.  Most of us try to find the hidden meaning.  But when the text makes no sense, we’ll skip it and read on to something more understandable.

Who is guilty of reading the Bible like this?  I was!  That 100% described me to a “T.”  But, if we give up when we read the Bible how can we explain it to non-Christians.  Especially those non-Christians or ex-Christians that want to use the Bible as a weapon against Christianity.  If you have a conversation with an Atheist or skeptic, they’ll attack the Bible faster than you can say YHWH!  Here is how that conversation might go:

Atheist – “Ha-chooo”  Me – “God Bless You!”

Atheist – “I don’t believe God exists!”   Me – “I do.”

Atheist – “Why?     Me – “Because the Bible says he does.”

Atheist “Ha, the Bible is a book written by humans, why would you believe it”  Me – “Because, it’s inspired by God

Atheist – “You do know it’s documented to have over 400,000 errors.   Me – “No there’s not!”

Atheist – “There are hundreds of contradictions in the New Testament alone.”  Me – “No there’s not!”

Atheist – “And there are scores of historical, geographical and scientific errors also.”  Me – “What?”

Atheist – “Why would you trust your Bible?”

Me, thinking to myself – “Wow – can this be true?”

Me, aloud – “I think I have someplace else to be.”

To be disciple of Christ we better be ready to get uncomfortable.   Part of being uncomfortable is encountering things we don’t want to hear.  In my conversation with that atheist, was I ready for his barrage of rebuttals?  NO! And in the end, who got converted?  I started off by affirming the existence of God and ended up wondering if that was even true.

Here is where today’s discussion may get uncomfortable – the Atheist was right.  The Bible does have thousands of errors.  The Bible does have many apparent contradictions.  It also does have what looks like geographic, historical, and scientific problems.  I see some of you squirming.

Yes, all of the atheist claims are true – if you play by their rules!

I entered that battle with no armor and against an enemy I was not prepared to meet.  But I should have been.  The guiding scripture for Christian apologetics – explaining our Faith – is    1 Peter 3:15. It says, “… you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

This morning I want to do two things.  The first is to convince you that, yes, you can trust the Bible.  To help me in this fight I am going to use something I learned by watcng YouTube.  Yes, YouTube.  I love YouTube.  You can learn so many things there.  Whoa, I wonder if there is a video to explain how my screen door springy thing works?  I need to check.  Now, let’s rerun that scene:

Atheist – “Ha-chooo”  Me – “God Bless You!”

Atheist – “I don’t believe God exists!”   Me – “I do.”

Atheist – “Why?   Me – “There are many reasons, but I trust in God’s word.”

Atheist – “Ha, the Bible is a book written by humans, why would you believe it?”

Me – “I choose to believe the Bible, because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses.  They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophesies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin”[1]

Atheist – “Umm”

Me – “Let’s have a cup of coffee and I’ll explain what I mean.”

What was the difference in that street battle – how did I engage with the atheist?  I did as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.  I was ready for the fight.  I had the “belt of truth.” Trust me, it’s a battle out there.  You must be ready.

But, let me make something perfectly clear.  Those are not my words.  They’re from Dr. Vodie Bauchman and I found it on YouTube.  I could have found a good argument by Billy Graham, or Tim Keller, or NT Wright, or anyone else I that inspires me.  Use the tools you have.  Do the research.   I just happen to think Vodie is a Black Belt Christian apologist.  It’s up to you to learn your own way of defending your faith.  Now, let me repeat what I said.

“I choose to believe the Bible, because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eye witnesses during the lifetime of other eye witnesses.  They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophesies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.”

And what do I say when we get to the coffee shop?  Or if the atheist pushes back on me. Maybe something like this:

“The Bible is not a single book.  It consists of sixty-six separate manuscripts, written by over 40 authors from various walks of life:  Kings, fisherman, doctors, historians, tax collectors, who wrote in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, on three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. This all happened over a period of 1500 years.

Who has heard of Plato?  He lived less than 500 years before Christ.  Around the same time the second temple was being resettled and became a city.   Plato is said to have written hundreds of books and speeches.  Today in university scholars, and even casual readers, read the famous works of Plato.  How many originals do you think exist?  None!  Nada! Not one.  But we read his writings word for word and not a single person that I know has ever questioned if it is authentic.  It was reconstructed from copies of copies.  It was also influenced by his protégée Socrates.  How can we trust Plato when we read his Discourse?   Because there have been so many copies that it can be pieced together!  This is also how we know the Bible is authentic!

The New Testament alone has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work.  We have found over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. [2]  Many of the oldest copies were written within a few decades of the originals that were lost.

And, do you know over 25,000 archeological explorations have been made that confirm Biblical names, places, customs and events.[3]  For example, when Atheist claim that the Great Flood never happened, but the Hebrews, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks all report a flood in primordial times. A tablet with a list of Sumerian kings was discovered from 2100 BC, and it divides their rule of kings into two categories: those who ruled before a great flood and those who ruled after it.[4]

Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist said. “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” [5]

Let’s go back to what the Atheist said. Does the Bible actually have errors created during the two-thousand years of scribal copying and translations?  Of course! Would you believe copies of any ancient document to be authentic if there were not some human errors?

Bart Ehrman is a very popular New Testament scholar and is used by the Atheist to support their arguments.  He said in his book, Misquoting Jesus—The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, that the bible manuscripts “differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are.”  In other words, there are too many errors to count.  But wait, here is what he said when asked if the Bible could be true:

“the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

There you go, one of the world’s preeminent biblical authorities, the agnostic champion for atheist, says that all this discussion about biblical errors is nothing but noise!

Before we move onto to the question of, can we trust the Bible as the word of God, let me show you a just a few examples of what atheist and non-believers use will use as “evidence.” Let’s look at one that is going to really surprise and maybe disappoint some of you.  How nice of me, right?  Please turn in your Bible to John verses 7:52-8:11. This story is formally known as the “Pericope Adulterae”.  It’s more commonly known as the story of the woman caught in adultery.  This is where Jesus famously said, “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Here’s the problem.  This story was not in the original Gospel of John.  In fact, it doesn’t make its way into John until somewhere between 400-500 later.  John did not write it.  Somehow this story was added into someone’s manuscript, that was then copied and recopied, then copied into the Latin Vulgate that spread to all the modern Bibles.  Fortunately, when we read our Bibles, we are given a warning when something like this happens.  My NIV Bible sets the story in italics and has a special note regarding the verses. Yet atheist will argue over what is already flagged as a discrepancy.  But, we have to know about the errors too, right?

Here is how I respond to this issue.  Here we have a wonderful moral story, that many of us have quoted, but wasn’t an authentic verse in John’s Gospel.  How does this make you feel?  Actually, it should make you feel very good.  Somehow a great morale story, not originally part of the Bible, mysteriously appears in a later version.  It may have been said by Jesus and recorded in an earlier source John did not know about.  I’d propose that perhaps God put something into the Bible he wanted us to hear!  After all, those words were breathed to someone.

Where does this leave us?  I think the best is to look at all the words in the Bible like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle.  Let’s make the Bible stories into a really big puzzle, 5000 pieces.  Now pretend you built that puzzle and when you finished you discovered a100 pieces left over.  What?  Wait, is the Bible is same?  You have not lost anything from the originals?  No.  We just happen to have more words and stories than the first authors delivered.

Let me give you two more examples – and I need to be quick.  Turn to the last chapter in Mark – Chapter 16.  Go to verse 9.  How many of you have a special note about verses 9-20?  It seems that this section was not in the original version of Mark.   Scholars think it was added just decades after Mark was written.  So, this could be part of the original.  But we have no originals, so we don’t know!  They are extra pieces for the puzzle.

Lastly, let me show you and example of what is called biblical contradiction that is an Atheist favorite argument.  They choose this one because it’s obvious and confusing.  Or is it?

Turn to the first Chapter in Matthew.  In Verse 1 we can see the Genealogy of Christ. The list includes 42 names from Abraham and ending with Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Now turn to Luke 3:23. If we look at this genealogy with a critical eye we can see that it is very different from Matthew.  This lineage runs from Joseph and goes to Adam.   What’s more troubling is that Joseph is said to be the son of Heli.  In Matthew, he’s the son of Jacob.  How can this be.  Believe me, the atheist love calling this a contradiction.

This is also one of my favorite “gotchas!”  There really isn’t any contradiction at all. Matthew writes his Gospel with a focus on the Jewish line including Jewish laws for parental lineage.  He even leaves out three kings that were banned from the lineage for being so wicked.  The Gospel of Luke is concerned with tracing Jesus all the way to Adam.  Luke does this by following Mary’s family line all the way up.

But what about Joseph having two fathers?  Simple.  Mary’s father Heli had two daughters, Mary and her sister.  Therefore, in Jewish law when Joseph married Mary, he became Heli’s son legally.  Just like Jesus was the son of Joseph legally. Because, we all know he was actually the son of whom?  …  The Son of God!

Frankly, I find it almost a shame that we need these discussions about contradictions, and spelling errors.  But non-believing people are eager to engage with Christians. They will not relent on the topic of contradictions or “bad science.”  To counter their arguments, you must have authority, and “you must [have] Christ as Lord of your life. [so when] someone asks [why you’re a believer, you’re] ready to explain it.”

But when it comes to the bible I refer you to the words of Charles Spurgeon~ “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

Our job as disciple of Christ is to be prepared to defend our faith and to let the Bible run loose like lions! And Jesus said –  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Guess what folks – that is our job to accomplish the unaccomplished.  Strap on your Belt of the Truth and defend your faith.

[1]   Voddie Baucham, “Why I Choose to Believe the Bible,”

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_manuscript – source cited verbatim.

[3] The Big Book of Bible Answers: A Guide to Understanding the Most Challenging Questions. By Ron Rhodes

[4] http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-asia/sumerian-king-list-still-puzzles-historians-after-more-century-research-001287

[5] Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: History of Negev. Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1969, P. 176. Cited by Rabbi Glenn Harris, http://www.gospeloutreach.net/bible.html