You Didn’t Just Ask That?!?! Addressing Difficult Theological Questions

Bible:  Fact, Fiction, or Fantasy?!

“No other book [Bible] is more simple in its style than the Bible. Its style is so simple and clear that a child can understand it, but its truth is so profound that we can explore the Book from childhood to old age and can never say we have reached the bottom.” ~ R. A. Torrey

I. Introduction

The attack against God’s Word goes all the way back to Genesis 3. Satan has longed for humanity to question, deny, and disobey God’s Word. While the nuances of his attacks may vary, his modus operandi has not. This morning we will examine five common arguments leveled against the Bible.

II. Key Questions (*Questions adapted from Blomberg’s Can We Still Trust the Bible?)

A. Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?

Argument: With over 400,000 variants among the ancient New Testament manuscripts, it is ridiculous to imagine ever reconstructing the original text of Scripture, much less

A variant is a difference in reading between two texts (e.g., a different spelling, word selection). being able to affirm its trustworthiness.

However, note the following:

*While there are approximately 400,000 variants in the Greek New Testament (though many scholars only argue that there are only 200,000 variants), it is spread across more than 25,000 manuscripts in Greek or other ancient languages. In addition, it is estimated that only 6 percent of the New Testament and 10 percent of the Old Testament contain the vast majority of these clusters.

*There is no major doctrine that is affected by a major variant. Less than 3 percent of all of these variants are significant enough to be presented in one of the two standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament. The majority of variants are simply scribal mistakes (e.g., omitting a letter, misspellings)

*Based upon the quantity of copies we have of both the Old and New Testaments, it is most improbable that we will discover a significant variant that is not already known.

*While we do not have an original manuscript of any biblical book, we have a significant number of very early manuscripts. In fact, the New Testament boasts of a greater quantity and quality of copies than any other ancient writing!

*Evidence shows that “the original copy of a biblical book would most likely have been used to make countless new copies over a period of several centuries, leading to still more favorable conditions for careful preservation of its content” (Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible, 34). For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls preserved books of the Old Testament for 200 to 300 years.

Ancient Authors

Oldest Manuscript

Number of Manuscripts Surviving

Livy (59 BC – AD 17)

4th c.

27

Tacitus (AD 56-120)

9th c.

3

Herodotus (484-425 BC)

1st c., AD

75

New Testament

c. 100-150 AD

Approx. 6,000 (only counting Greek manuscripts)

B. Isn’t the Bible Inspired Only When it is Responded to by Faith on the Part of the Reader?

Argument: The only meaning that is found in the Scriptures is based upon the reader.

However, observe the following:

*Such a statement assumes that the Bible is not the Word of God, but that it is only a document that contains the Word of God. However, this argument is totally subjective.

See 2 Timothy 3:16.

*Both the confirming work of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of fulfilled prophecy testify that the Bible is the Word of God.

See 2 Peter 1:21 (also, Deut 1:26, 32).

“Inspiration is that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit whereby the sacred writers were divinely supervised in their production of Scripture, being restrained from error and guided in the choice of words they used, consistently with their disparate personalities and stylistic peculiarities.”
~ C. Henry, “The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

C. Wasn’t the Selection of the Books for the Canon Just Political?

Argument: The current canon was determined by the winning side of the early, 4th-century Church. This winning side rewrote history and determined what was orthodox.

And yet, there is no extra biblical books or evidence that supports this claim.

Observe the following passages:

Matthew 11:13 –

2 Peter 3:15-16 –

Canonicity is a written work which is authoritative as a rule for God’s people. Canonicity is the human recognition that certain books are indeed the Scriptures that God inspired. The Church never determined the canon; it only recognized the canon. Inspiration is the only criteria.

The early Church’s criterion for recognition of the canonical books: (1) prophetic and apostolic origin (either directly or indirectly); (2) conformity with the rule of faith or in harmony with biblical teaching; and (3) self proclamation that it is from God (e.g., 1 Thess 4:15).

 

Reasons for Rejecting Extra-canoncial Literature

(e.g., Apocrypha books, Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Thomas,  Book of Mormon)

  • The New Testament never cites any apocryphal book as inspired or authoritative.
  • There is a lack of decisive evidence for its recognition.
  • Evidence specifically limits the canon to our present Old Testament by Judaism and the early Church.
  • There is a lack of truthfulness and erroneous doctrines taught.
  • These writings never claim to be the Word of God.
  • Presence of sub-biblical and immoral elements exist.
  • Suspicious history behind its acceptance by the Roman Church resides.  Only in 1546, as a reaction to the Reformation, did the Roman Catholic Church include particular works in their canon.

D. Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?

Argument: The numerous English versions demonstrate that no translation can be trusted.

However, observe the following:

*“Except for aberrant translations produced by sects or cults to promote their distinctive doctrines, every Bible on the market today is sufficiently faithful in its translation so that its readers can learn all of the fundamental truths of Christianity accurately” (Blomberg, 85).

*The reason we have so many English translations is due to the changes in our language, the ongoing discovery of manuscripts, and a more precise understanding of ancient history, grammar, and the ancient world. In addition, translators vary in their purpose for their work—depending upon whether they seek to emphasize a word-for-word or a paraphrase translation.

E. Don’t These Issues Rule Our Biblical Inerrancy?

Argument: With countless variants and never ending English translations, surely no one can possibly argue that our Bible is without error.

However, “inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with the doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences” (Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, 294).

Argument for inerrancy . . .
Truthfulness is an attribute of God (e.g., Jn 17:3).
God speaks truthfully. He does not lie (e.g., Titus 1:2).
God’s Word then is true (Jn 17:24).
The Scriptures are God’s Word (John 10:35).
Thus, Scripture is true (Ps 119:142). Obviously, if Scripture is true, it is inerrant.

Matthew 5:17-18 –

“Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.”
“Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, 494

III. Intersect

A.  We can rejoice in God’s grace that He would be willing to communicate with us.

B.  We can rest in knowing that God has carefully seen fit to preserve His Word for us.

C.  We need to read and study God’s message to us.

IV. Further Reading

  • Blomberg, Craig L. Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with  Contemporary Questions. Grand Rapids: Brazsos Press, 2014.
  • Wallace, Daniel B. Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament: Manuscript, Patristic, and Apocryphal Evidence. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011.
  • Wegner, Paul D. The Journey from Texts to Translation: The Origin and Development of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

 

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book.” ~ Abraham Lincoln