Most of the bible related questions I receive deal with location: where is such and such verse or passage in the bible. On other occasions, primarily when I’m dealing with youth and “non-electronic” bibles, the question is not asked but needed; many times the N.T. epistles will be sought in the O.T. So must of the time it is a question of where something is.
Sometimes it is a question of why it’s there, or what does it mean? The rarest question I get is how can we be expected to believe what’s there? In other words, can the bible be trusted?
For some of you this question may come up more regularly with your kids, parents, co-workers, classmates, neighbors. Or it may come up with you. And all of these are OK. That’s a good question to ask. We don’t question the authenticity (though some folks do) of Shakespeare or the Iliad or Odyssey all that much. And we shouldn’t because most people don’t find truths in these ancient documents that they base their whole existence upon. The bible deserves more scrutiny.
But the good news is that we have great reasons to believe that what we have today is what was inspired so long ago. Ed Stetzer discusses reasons for placing confidence in the fact that what we have today is what was passed down to us from the good old days.
Sometimes we need to hear this. Sometimes others need to hear it from us. Unless you regularly engage in apologetics defending the bible, you probably forget some solid evidences for why we can trust that what we have NOW is what they had THEN. I know I do. If you go here, you’ll be able to see 12 reasons for trusting the bible from the Holman Study Bible.
Two struck me as particularly apropos:
Eighth, the so-called hard sayings of Jesus support their authenticity. If the Gospel writers felt free to distort what Jesus originally said in order to increase the attractiveness of Christianity, why would they preserve unmodified His difficult and easily misunderstood teachings about hating family members (Lk 14:26) or not knowing when He would return (Mk 13:32)? The fact that they let these teachings stand indicates their faithfulness to recount true history.
Ninth, the fact that the NT does not record Jesus speaking about many of the topics that arose after His earthly life, during the time of the early church, supports its historical accuracy. For instance, early Christians were divided over how or whether the laws of Moses applied to Gentile converts (Ac 15). The easiest way to settle the controversy would be to cite Jesus’ teachings on the matter, but the Gospels record no such teachings. This silence suggests that the Gospel writers did not feel free to play fast and loose with history by putting on the lips of Jesus teachings that could solve early church controversies.
Neither of these prove that a God inspired their writings. But one pre-supposition that has often been used to discredit a God inspired bible is the role of individual agents with individual agendas, recording specific events that fit the writers intent. I’m fine with that. I don’t expect writers like Ellie Weisel, who lived and wrote about his concentration camp Hell in Night, to record anything but that which expresses the evil of the Nazi regime. We don’t question his account because of his bias.
But another pre-supposition made popular by German scholarship in the early 1900’s was that of sitz im leben (“situation in life”). The accounts of the gospel were crafted so as to address a situation in the early Church. As a result, we shouldn’t accept these accounts as “gospel.” However, this Ninth “reason” or “clue” as Tim Keller may call it, addresses and challenges that pre-supposition. It would have been fairly easy to include Jesus’ teaching on every issue that came up in the early church-particularly since some of the gospels were likely written after some of the epistles (which addressed problems in the early church). Why not include Jesus speaking to these issues? It would have been quite helpful. I mean Paul wouldn’t have had to say, “to the rest, I (not the Lord)” in regards to different not divorcing your unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:12). It would have made life much easier for church leaders to insert Jesus addressing circumcision, food offered to idols, baptism, etc…They didn’t insert Jesus saying those things because he obviously didn’t say them (or no one was inspired to record them).
Anyway, it is good to remind yourself of the many clues pointing to the authenticity of today’s bible. Provided you don’t insulate yourself from non-Christians or struggling Christians with honest doubts and questions, you never know when you may have the opportunity to defend the scriptures. So brushing up on your apologetics (defending the faith) is always a good idea.